Extreme action: Junior doctors force hospital shutdown after raid

Anti-corruption authorities attempt to arrest YDA’s vice-president

Ali Ousat February 22, 2017
Women leave the hospital with their babies after doctors went on strike. PHOTO: EXPRESS

LAHORE: Crying out of frustration or agony, two year-old Iqra reaches the Services Hospital emergency ward for the treatment of red spots that have appeared on her body. The doctors, however, refuse to even move a finger.

“I just wish they become human,” says her father Muhammad Hussain.

He is one of the many attendants whose patients have been denied treatment by medics at the government medical facility.

The Young Doctors Association (YDA) suspended all services to protest against the anti-corruption department’s attempt to arrest its vice-president Dr Atif.

Fatima Bibi, a patient herself, is going through her own predicament. “I came from Garden Town as there is a severe infection in my mouth and I have not eaten anything for two days,” complains the elderly woman. Unable to control her rage, the patient uses some colourful language before elaborating on her ordeal. “Amma visit Ganga Raam Hospital as we are on strike,” the woman says, quoting doctors.

Another crisis

On Monday night, the Anti-Corruption Department raided the Services Hospital to arrest Atif, who is allegedly involved in under-the-table deals. However, his peers resisted the arrest and even damaged the vehicles of anti-corruption authorities. The officials finally left the hospital without completing the arrest.

Following the incident, large numbers of doctors gathered outside the emergency ward and chanted slogans against the health and anti-corruption departments. The ward was also shut down on Monday night. Later, the medics issued a call for a province-wide shut down of OPDs at all hospitals and a complete strike at the Services Hospital, including the emergency ward.

Deserted hospitals

The few police personnel along and security guards deployed at the main gate of the Services Hospital say patients enter the premises only to find that the facilities are closed.

The slip counter, which usually sees a large number of people waiting in line, has been taken over by doctors who placed their notebooks to cover it up. The emergency ward, which deals with 400 patients at a time, is completely empty. Nurses and other paramedical staff sit at their counter, doing nothing and making a mockery out of their seniors.

The bed sheets are sparkling clean, while the wails of ambulance sirens are conspicuous in their absence. Stretchers and wheelchairs lie in their usual spots, while sanitary workers sit on empty benches. Enjoying the unannounced holiday, the employees sit and enjoy a smoke with their comrades.

The few doctors donning the lab coats tell desperate patients to look elsewhere for treatment.

The Services Hospital administration is not even picking up phones of media personnel, thus creating an air of ambiguity over when the hospital will reopen.

The health department just issued its policy statement, saying it strongly condemn to those doctors who took the law into their own hands. Officials say if any medics are booked by the anti-corruption department, he or she must appear before the authority.

“We will not tolerate this. They are endangering the lives of patients,” a spokesman comments.

Dr  Atif, who is accused of creating the law and order situation, was not reachable despite several attempts.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd, 2017.