The doctors divide: AG K-P consulted to discuss ramifications of action against strikers

If staff boycotts services at hospital, clinics should remain closed: LRH

Umer Farooq February 04, 2016
Minister for Health Shahram Khan Tarakai addressing a press conference. PHOTO: EXPRESS

PESHAWAR: The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government consulted the office of the advocate general Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Thursday for possible legal action against those found guilty for violating the Essential Services Act 1952 on February 3.

According to a senior health official, “The government now seems to be on the offensive as evident from a recent meeting held with its legal team where possible repercussions of certain actions, including termination, against those found guilty of violating the act, were discussed.” Minister for Health Shahram Khan Tarakai confirmed the developments to The Express Tribune. “Yes, we have consulted our legal teams but it is only to know how strong our case is,” he said.

The warning

Addressing a news conference at the Civil Secretariat on Thursday, Tarakai warned the agitating health employees of serious consequences. He said most health employees supported the government in bringing reforms in the health sector and the “few” protesting should mend their ways. Otherwise, he said, the government will take extreme steps – the termination of services.

Tarakai added PTI and its coalition partners will never compromise on patient care since they promised the public they would be bringing revolutionary changes to the health sector.

The minister said the past set-up failed because it did not help patients or health employees. Tarakai said the government not only supported health employees but also gave them an autonomous status in addition to enhanced salaries. “If they are still reluctant to perform their duties, they can leave,” he said. Tarakai said the court has decided the case in favour of the government and the reforms will be implemented.

The right to protest

When asked as to why PTI implemented Essential Services Act in hospitals but criticised the federal government for doing the same at Pakistan International Airline (PIA) offices and airports, the minister said the nature of both cases was vastly different. The former involved lives of poor and innocent patients, said the minister. Tarakai also said none of the members of the board of governors (BoG) at the hospitals were paid and were offering their services voluntarily.

Deviancy or deviation?

He added doctors locked out-patient departments and boycotted their services at the hospitals but not at their clinics – a clear suggestion they were not interested in any case. Otherwise, he suggested, they would have locked their clinics as well.

A statement issued by the Lady Reading Hospital administration on Thursday proposed when doctors strike and boycott services at the hospital, their clinics should also be kept closed on the same day.

A copy of the document available with The Express Tribune read doctors were spreading rumours about privatisation of the hospital in order to divert patients to their clinics.

The backdrop

On Wednesday, LRH issued show-cause notices to 130 employees of the hospital including doctors, paramedical staff and nurses, which were likely to be followed by FIRs under relevant sections of law.

The notices were issued after the medical community in the provincial capital boycotted services at three major hospitals: LRH, Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) and Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) after Health Employees Coordination Council (HECC) announced a strike for one day over the dissolution of the Post Graduate Medical Institute (PGMI), non-payment of allowance and overtime for those performing extra duties.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th,  2016.


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