Essential Services Act (ESA), 1958, banning strikes in health facilities, was invoked on Monday hours after employees announced a protest across Peshawar Division starting Tuesday (today). The strike is against the Medical Teaching Institutions Reforms Act 2015 and the dissolution of the Post Graduate Medical Institution.
At a news conference at Peshawar Press Club on Monday, Minister for Health Shahram Khan Tarakai said the reforms act was prepared in consultation with all political parties and doctors. “I can say it was the only act in which we had to make around 120 amendments and the act was promulgated after detailed discussions.”
He added once the act was promulgated, a few employees challenged it in court. However after a six-month long legal battle, the verdict came in favour of the government. The court directed the K-P government to implement the act in true letter and spirit, as health services are essential [to the public], said Tarakai.
“By issuing the notification we are following the court orders,” he told the media, adding the court also ordered the provincial government to take action against all those violating the ESA, 1958.
PIA, MTI protests
The health minister maintained there was a difference between the implementation of the ESA at hospitals in K-P and its implementation on Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) [enforced by the federal government]. “This is because the act in hospitals was imposed after court directions, but the act imposed by the federal government [on PIA] was not imposed under court orders.”
The federal government, added Tarakai, used force but the provincial government held talks for over two years and did not harm anyone. “Whatever we do will be in accordance with the law,” said the minister.
When asked about possible action against violators of ESA, Tarakai said the government may issue show-cause notices, suspension or termination orders. But, he said, things will not get physical.
“Our [MTI] act is just like the 18th Amendment; we have empowered hospitals,” the minister said. Tarakai added the government will issue funds and hospitals will be run by a management.
He said doctors should stop going on strikes and should do their jobs, otherwise they should leave their jobs.
Tarakai said members of the paramedics association held a meeting with him where its representatives extended complete support to the provincial government and announced they will not be part of the strike. “The only thing we want from the protesting employees is to reach hospitals on time, perform their duties accordingly and leave on time.”
Health Employees Coordination Council (HECC), Young Doctors Association (YDA) and other medical professionals announced a strike at hospitals across Peshawar Division, which includes three tertiary hospitals – Lady Reading Hospital, Khyber Teaching Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex.
HECC President Dr Musa Kaleem said a separate set-up has been planned where patients will be offered out-patient services.
However, he added the patients would not be issued official slips from the official counter. “We have prepared our own slips and
will prescribe medicines in the same manner.”
Kaleem added they would see patients at any available place outside the out-patient department buildings of the said hospitals. He said the strike was announced for Peshawar Division on Tuesday and would be extended to all hospitals across the province on Wednesday.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2016.
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