The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has indicated that it does not support the strike called by the Young Doctors Association (YDA) Punjab, which entered its tenth day on Wednesday, though both groups are on the same page in their demands for better perks and allowances.
The PMA had called a meeting of all doctors associations yesterday where it sought to formulate a joint strategy to press the demands for changes to their service structure. Though YDA Pakistan President Dr Rana Sohail attended the meeting, the YDA Punjab was not invited.
Asked why YDA Punjab was not invited, PMA General Secretary Dr Izhar Chaudhry said: “They gave the call for a strike on their own, without consulting us. They are running their own movement.”
Members of the YDA Punjab have been boycotting outpatient departments at public hospitals since June 11. Doctors’ representatives held talks with government officials on Wednesday night – their first reported contact in a week – but they were unsuccessful, said YDA officials.
A senior YDA Punjab member said on the condition of anonymity that the two associations had both signed a document of proposals for changes in the service structure that had been submitted to the Health Department last week. A PMA official confirmed that the two associations had an “internal agreement” to enter negotiations with the government together.
“The PMA says we should have consulted them before announcing the strike,” said Dr Mudassir Razzaq Khan, a member of the YDA General Council. He said that both groups may have different methods, but they were fighting for the same goals. “Our struggle involves boycotting outpatient departments (OPDs). They have their own way of going about it.”
PMA President Dr Tanveer Anwar said that at Wednesday’s meeting, a working group consisting of the presidents and general secretaries of the various associations had been formed to come up with a joint strategy to press for their demands. This would be announced at a press conference on Thursday (today).
The groups that attended the meeting included the Medical Teachers Association (MTA), Society of Surgeons, Orthopaedic Association, Society of Gastrology, Gynaecology Society, Radiology Society, Pathologist Society, Society of Urology, Private Hospital Owners Association and Pakistan Academy of Physicians.
A participant of the meeting said that the possibility of private doctors and hospitals joining the protest had been discussed. “It was suggested that 5,000 clinics run by general physicians and private hospitals could shut for a day or two to show solidarity with the doctors,” he said.
The YDA Punjab on Wednesday organised a demonstration outside Children’s Hospital, its second demonstration for this campaign. YDA spokesman Dr Nasir Bokhari, who works at Children’s Hospital, said the doctors wouldn’t remain on strike until their demands were met. He said the Health Department had contacted them on Wednesday but they told them to contact the PMA and MTA as well.
Meanwhile, patients continued to be turned away from public hospitals. “Patients who need to be hospitalised and operated on are being asked to come back after the doctors’ strike,” said a senior doctor at Jinnah Hospital.
No money for doctors’ demands
Special Assistant to the Chief Minister Khawaja Salman Rafique said that the government was still pursuing negotiations with the doctors and had no plans to clamp down on the protests.
He said the government could not afford the doctors’ demands for raised allowances and pay, but was willing to make the administrative changes they wanted. “We have worked it out and there isn’t any category [in the budget] from where we can cut funds and give them to doctors. We will ask the doctors to give up their financial demands for now. The administrative changes they proposed in the service structure can be accommodated,” he said.
Talking to reporters at his camp office at Minar-i-Pakistan, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif called upon the doctors to end their strike and said that their salaries were better than those of doctors in other provinces. He said the doctors’ strike had jeopardised the many good healthcare programmes initiated by the Punjab government for the poor.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2012.
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