Leaders of the Young Doctors Association (YDA) will start touring other districts starting with Bahawalpur today (Thursday) to strengthen its strike across the province, after two public hospitals opened on Wednesday.
The out-patient departments (OPDs) at Aziz Bhatti Shaheed Hospital in Gujrat and Victoria Hospital in Bahawalpur were both open on Wednesday, for different reasons. A source told The Express Tribune that doctors did not boycott the OPD at the Gujrat hospital in exchange for the withdrawal of an FIR registered against a Dr Saud over a death at the hospital a day earlier.
Meanwhile in Bahawalpur, a group of doctors calling themselves the YDA South Punjab called for an end to the strike. The OPD at Victoria Hospital was opened after a YDA South Punjab representative met with the hospital’s medical superintendent, Dr Irshad, and the principal of Quaid-i-Azam Medical College. Dr Irshad said that 2,000 patients had been treated at the OPD on Wednesday.
But YDA Punjab spokesman Dr Nasir Bokhari said that there was no YDA South Punjab. “The government is fielding its puppets to try and make us fail. But the medical community is with us and we will not back down,” said Dr Bokhari.
YDA Bahawalpur President Dr Tanveer Bajwa alleged that the Victoria Hospital administration had hired gunmen to forcibly open the OPD. He said that outsiders had worked at the OPD. He said that YDA President Dr Hamid Butt would arrive in Bahawalpur on Thursday to discuss strategy.
Dr Bokhari said that YDA “core members” would visit various districts to organise boycotts. He said that the doctors would not back down until the government prepared a suitable service structure for the medical professionals it employed.
Meanwhile in Lahore, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) sought to distance itself from the YDA, saying the association was not on board the decision to go on strike. “Certainly there are other ways to convey your reservations and grievances,” said PMA Punjab President Dr Ashraf Nizami.
Asked whether senior doctors could ensure that the OPDs kept running, he said that there were far fewer of them than the young doctors, and they were far less physically intimidating. “But if the government contacts us certainly we can play our role to resolve this issue so that patients don’t suffer,” he said.
The patients continued to suffer on Wednesday, the seventh day of the OPD strike in Lahore, with paramedical staff also absent from teaching hospitals. “This is the third day that I am bringing my daughter here to the OPD,” said Muhammad Irfan, who was waiting outside Services Hospital “She isn’t well and the doctors aren’t admitting her. Who will be responsible if something happens to her?”
A senior doctor at Lahore General Hospital said that there should be an inquiry into whether private hospitals were supporting the YDA strike, as they were benefitting from the closure of public hospitals.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif met Health Department officials on Wednesday to discuss the situation. A participant in the meeting said that no action against the doctors had been decided yet, but it had been decided that the government would not withdraw the posting orders for 691 new doctors. The posting of the new doctors and the Health Department’s subsequent transfer orders for 450 doctors sparked the ongoing strike.
CM’s Adviser on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique said the government was willing to talk about the transfers and remove the YDA’s misgivings, “but let the doctors first do the job they were hired for”.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2012.