The Young Doctors Association (YDA) Punjab says it will start an indefinite strike today (Monday) at the outpatient departments (OPDs) of public hospitals against the government’s failure to produce an acceptable draft on a service structure for doctors by the June 7 deadline.
The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has called a meeting of its provincial council on June 24 to devise a strategy on the service structure issue.
The meeting will be attended by PMA delegates from all 36 districts of the province.
Dr Hamid Butt, the YDA Punjab president, told The Express Tribune that the deadline given to the government for a service structure draft had expired on June 7.
“We held our grand convention on June 13. In line with the decision of our general council, we are going on an indefinite strike,” he said.
Dr Nasir Bokhari, another spokesperson for YDA Punjab, said, “The government tried to engage us but we told them to call a joint meeting of the PMA, the Medical Teachers Association (MTA) and YDA representatives.”
“The government had wanted to create misunderstandings and break the doctors’ unity by holding separate meetings with doctors’ associations,” he said.
In May, the YDA Punjab had started a strike in the public hospitals in Lahore against some transfers but later adopted the demand for a service structure for all doctors employed by the Health Department. The strike ended on May 7 when a committee was formed and asked to make recommendations on a new service structure within a month.
“Doctors’ representatives have met the committee a number of times but without fruit. We are left with no choice but to go on strike again,” Dr Bokhari said.
Elsewhere, PMA Punjab President Dr Ashraf Nizami told media at PMA House on Sunday that PMA was concerned at what it saw as the government’s apathy towards health sector.
“The allocation for health has disappointed doctors. They are also concerned about violations of merit while appointing principals to public medical colleges in Punjab,” he said. Dr Izhar Chaudhary, PMA general secretary, said that medical institutions were suffering from an acute shortage of faculty with senior professors reluctant to stay in service due to the lack of a proper service structure.
“King Edward Medical University (KEMU), the top medical school in the country, has 71 vacancies posts from assistant professors to professors,” he said.
Dr Chaudhary said that the decision to bar doctors with less than two years left in service from being appointed as principals was discriminatory.
“Professor Attiya Mubarik has been a professor for 20 years but has not been posted in Lahore because she lacks ‘connections’. She has proved her ability by establishing a new medical college from scratch,” he said.
Salman Rafique, health advisor to the chief minister, said that doctors should not resort to haste.
“The matter can be resolved through negotiations. Work on the service structure is well underway,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2012.
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