Patients suffer as doctors, govt stand-off continues

Over 10,000 people have been deprived of medical treatment at Services Hospital

Ali Ousat February 28, 2017
Doctor says most of his patients fell ill after eating food from roadside stalls. PHOTO: EXPRESS

LAHORE: More than 10,000 patients have been deprived of medical treatment at the Services Hospital in the past 10 days as junior doctors remain on strike and the government shows no interest in breaking the deadlock.

While four days ago the Young Doctors Association office-bearers announced opening the emergency ward after the death of a patient, they started protesting again on Monday, demanding the resignation of the health secretary and booking officers of the anti-corruption establishment.

The junior doctors had suspended all activities at the Services Hospital to protest against the anti-corruption department’s attempt to arrest its YDA vice-president Dr Atif in a corruption scandal.

According to the health department, around 10,000 patients have been deprived of medical treatment because of the junior doctors’ strike at Services Hospital.

A spokesperson of the health department told The Express Tribune that all other hospital administrations have been strictly directed to accommodate patients, who are being referred from Services Hospital.

Replying to a question, he said the department did not resume talks with YDA office-bearers as the doctors were bound to keep the indoors and outdoors wards of the hospital open without any conditions.

“Anti-corruption department is dealing with the YDA as several cases have been registered against them for their involvement in corruption,” he said, adding the health department’s main responsibility was to provide treatment to patients and they were trying to deal with the situation.

“Although other hospitals are witnessing a rush of patients, we have directed them to treat patients being referred from Services Hospital on priority,” he said.

YDA has no authority

Humayun Faiz Rasool, a lawyer of the Supreme Court, told The Express Tribune that under the West Pakistan Essential Services Act 1971 and after the 18th Amendment, any gazetted officer of essential services could not stop its working.

“They can neither go on a strike nor can they stop working and if they do so, the government can register a case against them,” he pointed out.

“The medical profession also comes under essential services act, and these protesting doctors should have been behind bars long ago for denying treatment to patients and closing down hospitals.”

He added the YDA, according to this act, was not a union and the doctors were just using pressure tactics by suspending medical services for the fulfilment of their demands.

What the doctors say

Dr Basharat Gill, former YDA office-bearer, told The Express Tribune that a few years ago, the anti-corruption establishment had registered fake cases against four doctors, including himself, Dr Hamid Butt, Dr Farhan and Dr Atif, with mala fide intent.

“The real story behind the anti-corruption raid is that the YDA was all set to initiate a movement against the health department against its privatisation policy of the health care system,” he claimed.

“All plans have been finalised for the betterment of health care system and they are going to demand free medicines for all patients and implementation of one-patient, one-bed policy.”

Dr Basharat alleged the health department was maligning the YDA that was why it was not initiating negotiations with them. “Only the YDA can take a stand against the government’s privatisation policy, therefore they want to eliminate us,” he added.

Despite repeated attempts, officials of the anti-corruption establishment could not be reached for comments.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2017.


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