More than 80 per cent of newly qualified doctors in one part of India have quit after their wages were slashed despite the desperate need for medics as the country faces the world's fastest-growing Covid-19 epidemic.
Almost 900 of the 1080 graduates in the southern state of Kerala, all assigned to frontline Covid-19 hospitals, resigned after their wages were cut from 42,000 rupees (£430) to 27,000 rupees (£276) a month.
No official reason was given for the wage reduction but hospitals across India are struggling to cover increased Covid-19 running costs, even as the numbers of patients continues to rise as Covid-19 takes hold in India.
Its public healthcare system is one of the most underfunded in the world - with only £1.50 spent per citizen - and doctors across India have been striking over months of unpaid or reduced wages.
Pre-Covid-19, India already suffered from a shortage of 600,000 doctors and two million nurses and now the country has over 3.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases.
The Indian Government has long failed to allocate funding to train new medical professionals, while low wages and poor working conditions in public hospitals have resulted in around 100,000 doctors emigrating to countries like the United Kingdom.
One doctor in a public hospital in the western city of Surat told the Telegraph each professional was expected to care for up to thirty critical Covid-19 patients.
There have been nationwide shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitation facilities for staff on Covid-19 wards, which has further exacerbated staff shortages.
As of August 21, 264 had died from the virus and over 1,900 had become infected, according to the Indian Medical Association.
“This is inhumane and unhealthy in the long-run, we are overworked because of understaffing,” said Dr Rajas Deshpande, a neurologist in the city with India’s highest caseload, Pune.
“Many of my friends have died, many more are infected. Most doctors are already depressed and facing a burnout with inhumane duty schedules and this may cause grievous consequences”.
Indians expressed their outrage on social media at the "shocking" decision to reduce the salaries of doctors in Kerala - deemed “Corona Warriors” by Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister.
“[There] is a lack of respect by the establishment for the profession. No one can dispute this,” one wrote Twitter user.
In the United Kingdom, doctors have been awarded a 2.8 percent pay increase while France has agreed to give pay rises of €8 billion (£7.2 billion) to its health workers.
The Kerala Government is yet to comment on the resignation of the doctors and did not respond to a request for comment from the Telegraph.