|Unattended patients in Rajasthan have been left lying on stretchers outside hospital wards [Al Jazeera]
A five-day doctors' strike in northwestern India has hit public hospitals hard, with patients left struggling to get care.
An estimated 9,000 doctors in the state-run hospitals of Rajasthan are on strike demanding better work conditions, better pay and promotions akin to their federal counterparts.
The medical crisis also worsened as 5,000 doctors submitted their resignations.
The government is bringing in railway and army medics to cope with the shortage. Medical students and interns are also being callled upon to work.
Patients, including those in need of urgent care, are feeling the impact of the work stoppage. Many have been left untreated and more than 40 have died since the strike began.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, the federal health minister, has asked the doctors to resume work, saying that treating patients is the foremost responsibility of their profession.
"Keeping in mind that lives of thousands of people are in danger, if doctors are not in hospital and some may have
even lost their lives till now, I would like to appeal that they should not imitate other institutions and should not go strike at the cost of the ailing people needing medicare," he said on Sunday.
Azad continued: "I think doctors should be the first ones to realise this glaring fact."
Even so, the deadlock may continue for days since the state government has so far not initiated any negotiations with the doctors who have been on strike since December 21.
Dr Anurag Dhakar, a striking doctor at Sawai Man Singh Hospital at Jaipur, said that government's stance and
response showed that it did not want to resolve the deadlock.
"As far as demands of the doctors are concerned, if the Chief Minister calls a meeting of the concerned leaders of the doctors for a dialogue over their reasonable demands, then nobody has any problem, as doctors are committed to put in their heart and soul in treating the patients," Dhakar told the Reuters news agency.
The worst sufferers are those patients needing immediate care. Unattended patients were seen lying on stretchers outside hospital wards, waiting to be attended while other ailing victims of the protest looked on helplessly for attention and care.
Shaheed Khan, a relation of a patient, lamented at the state of the patients, who have been forced to fend for themselves in the absence of doctors.
"We are facing lot of problems due to strike as doctors are not ready to treat the patients nor anybody is giving any medicines or injections. The condition is very bad over here ... We are very much concerned," he said.