In an unprecedented move, 35 doctors were suspended while 15 others were served notices by the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Ministry of Health on Thursday for being absent from duty.
The doctors who have been suspended were all permanent employees, an official of the health ministry told The Express Tribune, requesting not to be named. He said that those who have been issued notices directed are to report on duty or face consequences. The ministry has also withheld salaries of the said doctors, he said, adding that it is the first time the G-B health ministry has moved against the doctors not attending duties.
Official sources said that most of the doctors against whom action has been taken are working abroad, exacerbating the plight of already understaffed hospitals. “Understandably, the obvious reasons for preferring jobs abroad are monitory benefits,” said an official of the health ministry.
Last year, the regional government raised doctors’ salary package and brought them at par with their counterparts in Punjab after they went on strike over low salaries.
G-B Health Minister Haji Gulbar said the government could not afford to offer the doctors a package equal to that of the Punjab government as it required at least Rs0.5 billion, which wasn’t feasible within the government’s limited resources. “The doctors in G-B could best be offered a package similar to those serving under the federal government,” he added.
The minister said that 45 new doctors have been hired on contract to meet the shortage of doctors in G-B.
Gulbar said the ministry requires an additional Rs20 million to purchase medicine for hospitals, adding that they would be making the demand to the government as the existing budget falls short of fulfilling requirements. He said a feasibility report on construction of a medical college in G-B is in progress.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2012.
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