The Bombay High Court stepped in on Tuesday after more than 4,000 resident doctors in Maharashtra went on “mass leave” in protest against the inadequate security provided to them in the face of attacks by families of patients. The court asked the doctors to resume work immediately and said the matter will be heard tomorrow.

More than 400 surgeries were postponed and several patients were left without care because of the protests. This comes after two new cases were reported from Wadia Maternity Hospital in Parel and Aurangabad where doctors were assaulted by relatives of patients.

“As many as 45 cases have been registered in the last three years under the Doctors’ Protection Act,” Dr Yash Kabra, president of the Central Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors told The Indian Express. “So far, not one case has reached the stage of conviction.” The Act stipulates a prison term of three years for those found guilty. However, the protestors feel that it will not deter people from attacking doctors unless the Act is made more stringent with imprisonment of at least seven years.

The group, however, refrained from calling the protests a strike. They held meetings with senior civic officials and Directorate of Medical Education and Research on Monday to find a solution. “We have been assured that around 500 security personnel will be deputed from the Maharashtra State Security Corporation latest by April 1,” an MARD spokesperson told The Times of India. “A total of 1,130 people will be recruited for colleges all over Maharashtra by April-end. The decision to resume work rests with each doctor and how secure he or she feels.”

Mumbai Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar has also assured the doctors that the rule to restrict the entry of patients’ relatives to two will be followed more strictly. “We have also given directives for an alarm system to be installed in the wards,” Mahadeshwar told TOI. “A vigilance committee will be appointed as well.”

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