Punjab’s Young Doctors Association (YDA) was given 24 hours on Saturday to unconditionally call off its strike, as the provincial government called in 150 army medics to tackle the crisis created by the ongoing medics’ strike in the province.
In a meeting with medical superintendents and principals of state-run medical colleges on Saturday, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif refused to negotiate with the striking doctors.
“Some senior professors sought permission from the chief minister for negotiations with the young doctors, but the latter ruled out the possibility of talks unless the strike was called off,” a participant of the meeting told The Express Tribune.
“The chief minister had a copy of the Essential Services Act 1958 on his table and he was holding a baton in his hand.”
He said Shahbaz reminded each professor how much they earned from private practice and what could be their income if transferred to Attock, Mianwalai, Rajanpur, or any other far-flung district.
“The message was loud and clear: side with the government or face the music,” the participant recalled.
Another participant of the meeting said, “We conveyed to the chief minister that the young doctors would not end their strike unconditionally and may even intensify their protests. The CM, however, said he himself would deal with them.”
Shahbaz, however, conceded to give them 24 hours to speak to the young doctors and resolve the issue.
Army comes to help
Pakistan Army has sent 150 doctors to state-run hospitals at the request of the Punjab government.
“These doctors will perform their duties in uniform and will provide medical consultancy while administration of hospitals will continue to remain the responsibility of the provincial government,” an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement added.
ISPR Regional Public Relation Officer in Lahore Lt Col Shahid Abbas Kirmani confirmed the development to The Express Tribune.
OPDs to start running from Monday
A senior health department official also confirmed that the government has decided not to negotiate with protesting doctors.
“We have made a contingency plan and have arranged some 1,000 doctors to get the Out-Patient Departments (OPDs) running Monday onwards,” he told The Express Tribune.
Asked what their plan was in case the YDA refused to let OPDs function, the official said, “They shouldn’t object to anybody who wants to work. We will have the police deployed at the hospitals to ensure order.”
However, YDA Punjab threatened to withdraw indoor services if the government decided to open OPDs.
After the meeting of its General Council to discuss its future strategy, the YDA decided to not budge on its stance.
“The YDA condemns the Punjab government’s maligning and coward tactics to deprive doctors of their rights through force, and decides unanimously to confront any kind of evil move to oppress any doctor in the province,” said YDA General Council member Dr Mudassir Razaq Khan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2012.
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