Afraid of being laid off, the doctors and staff working for the Sindh Hepatitis Free Programme have formed a committee to push the government to offer them permanent employment. At the moment, they are being hired on a year-long contract which has to be renewed each time it expires.
At a press conference on Sunday, a group of doctors said that a committee has been formed through which the demands of the programme’s employees will be channelled. They asked it to become a permanent part of the health services offered to people. “We have over 300 employees, including 80 doctors, in Sindh,” said a representative of the new committee, Abdul Rehman Memon. “The uncertainty about the programme’s continuity and the contractual nature of the jobs expose employees to the risk of redundancy.”
Dr Rabia Rajpar, another committee member, lamented that the salaries and perks of the programme’s doctors are not at par with those who work for the government on permanent contracts. She claimed that as many as 35 employees have been sacked from the service so far.
The three-year programme, which the Sindh government initiated in 2009, has been extended for another three years. The budget allocation to the programme for the current fiscal year is around Rs1 billion. Its goals include the control, treatment and awareness about the disease as well as ensuring that all of the province’s population is covered. The programme has 69 centres across Sindh. The programme boasts a reduction in hepatitis cases since it began. More than 145,000 people have been treated for Hepatitis B and C and 4.6 million others inoculated. The programme also offers free polymearse chain reaction tests which detect presence of hepatitis.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2012.