The Young Doctors Association (YDA) is planning to intensify its protests against the Punjab government over the service structure for doctors due to a lack of progress in talks.
YDA spokesman Dr Nasir Bokhari said that the association had called a general council meeting for Thursday in Rawalpindi to intensify their campaign, which has so far involved gong on strike at outpatient departments in public hospitals. The strike continued for a sixth day on Saturday.
YDA Punjab President Dr Hamid Butt sent a text message to YDA members on Thursday stating that the options to be considered for intensifying the campaign would include shutting down emergency wards and indoor departments in hospitals, setting up road blocks at the Punjab Assembly and setting fire to Chief Minister’s House.
The YDA spokesman said that the association had had no contact with the government since a meeting on Wednesday, when representatives from the doctors presented a draft of demands for revisions to the service structure and the two sides calculated the potential financial cost of these changes.
“Three days have passed since we agreed to call off the strike if the government spent just Rs6 billion to give all doctors a one-scale promotion, raise the non-practising allowance and raise the salaries of postgraduate trainees to the level of medical officers. Nobody from the government since then has approached us. We will decide our future strategy in our general council meeting and seek to intensify our campaign,” said Dr Bokhari.
The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) is to meet today (Sunday) to discuss whether to support the YDA campaign, said PMA General Secretary Dr Izhar Chaudhry. “The demands of the YDA and the PMA are similar. But the PMA will make its decision after consulting with the 36 district organisations,” he said.
A YDA official said that the body had made informal requests through its district branches to the district officials of the PMA seeking their support for the protest campaign, but had made no formal request for support to the PMA.
The official said that the YDA had not made a similar request to the Medical Teachers Association (MTA), the third major body representing doctors after the PMA and YDA. “We aren’t looking for their help. If senior doctors think shutting OPDs isn’t the right thing to do, they should examine patients in indoor departments or in their offices,” he said.
Sources in the YDA, PMA and MTA said that they had not been contacted by the government on Saturday.
Special Assistant to the Chief Minister on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique said that the negotiations were not over. He said talks would be held soon to resolve the matter.
YDA Pakistan General Secretary Dr Salman Kazmi said in a statement on Friday that doctors were “the most underpaid professionals in the country” and their pay was below the pay of doctors in neighbouring countries.
He criticised the Punjab government for allocating Rs17 billion in the budget to build new hospitals and medical colleges, but had not allocated any money for revisions to the service structure for doctors and special salary packages. “The government apparently plans to run these hospitals without doctors,” he said.
Dr Kazmi said that 2,000 doctors had left Pakistan last year in search for better pay and that was why there was an acute shortage of doctors in the Punjab. He said that there was not a single vascular surgeon, rheumatologist or ICU specialist in the Punjab because of the poor salaries on offer.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2012.
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