Punjab’s junior doctors may partially end their strike by returning to the emergency rooms over the next 48 hours, in response to mediation by medical university professors and senior doctors, even as reports continued to surface of patients dying because of a lack of medical attention in hospitals across the province.
The Young Doctors’ Association (YDA), which called for the strike action, may end its boycott of emergency rooms at hospitals after receiving assurances from the Punjab government, delivered by medical professors, that their demands for salary increments will be met over the next 48 hours.
According to sources familiar with the matter, junior doctors will continue their strike in the non-emergency departments of hospitals until their demands are met.
Earlier in the day, the YDA claimed that the Punjab government had been trying to intimidate its members by arresting some of them from their homes.
“It is almost as if they are using kidnapping tactics to harass us,” said Ashraf. “The government has shown its true colours as it has tried to deceive the public regarding the status of doctors in the hospitals.”
Doctors at public hospitals in Lahore were meant to submit their resignations en masse today, after over 2,200 of their colleagues in Rawalpindi and Faisalabad resigned on Friday. It appears, however, that many have been unable to do so out of fear of being arrested.
Punjab government spokesperson Pervez Rasheed denied that any doctors had been arrested. Police officials in Lahore also denied having taken any physicians into custody.
Under the Emergency Services Ordinance of 2002, doctors are not allowed to go on strike. Hence, their only option to protest their working conditions is to resign, which is what many of them have attempted to do.
Junior doctors have been protesting since March 1 for an increase in their salaries. Negotiations between the Punjab government and the YDA broke down on March 31 over the issue of senior registrars’ salaries. The YDA insisted that their salaries be increased to Rs50,000 per month (from the current Rs30,000 per month) but the Punjab government argued that it cannot do so.
Meanwhile, the vice-chancellor of the King Edward Medical College cancelled the spring break for fifth-year medical students and ordered them to report for duty at the hospital’s emergency rooms.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 03rd, 2011.