Doctors on strike in Punjab

Over 2,000 physicians resign, chaos in emergency rooms.

Sher Khan April 02, 2011


Thousands of doctors across Punjab working at public hospitals resigned from their positions and many others went on strike today after the provincial government failed to meet their demands for better compensation, leaving many hospitals desperately short-staffed and struggling to administer patient care.

The protest action was called by the Young Doctors Association of Punjab, which claims that it has 8,000 members who will be participating in the strike. They have been demanding a minimum monthly salary of Rs90,000 for their members, among other demands, including a regularisation of their employment contracts.

At least 750 doctors resigned in Faisalabad and another 1,500 resigned in Rawalpindi after protesting for a month for an increase in their salaries. YDA officials said that Lahore doctors would be tendering their resignations en masse on Saturday (today).

In Lahore, young doctors withdrew from emergency rooms and claimed they were joined by some of their senior colleagues in solidarity, leaving patients stranded without sufficient medical attention. Lahore Children’s Hospital’s managing director, Doctor Ahsan Waheed Rathore denied that any of the senior doctors had also taken part in the strike.

Negotiations between the government and the YDA broke down on Thursday night after Punjab government refused to make any commitments on meeting their demands. The YDA set a deadline for 2 pm on Friday, after the expiration of which, they began their strike.

“The developments of last night and the lack of action by the government to fix the situation have meant that we have withdrawn our services from the emergency rooms,” said YDA Punjab spokesperson Aftab Ashraf. “We hold the bureaucracy responsible for misleading the government about the status of doctors.”

Chaos at hospitals

Hospitals throughout the province reported severe difficulties and even patient deaths as a result of being desperately short-staffed.

The Lahore Chidren’s Hospital, for example, has eight doctors working in the emergency room compared to 45 on a normal day. A man suffering from tuberculosis in Rawalpindi District Hospital reportedly died on Friday due to a lack of doctors at the hospital.

The closure of emergency wards at public hospitals in Punjab has resulted in severe difficulties for those who cannot afford private hospitals. Long queues of attendants were seen sitting in and outside the hospital gates with their patients’ screaming in pain and waiting for doctors.

“My grandmother is having serious digestive problem since yesterday and her condition is getting worst due to not getting treatment on time,” said Shazia Manzoor at the Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi.

Mixed reactions

The doctors’ strike has been getting mixed reactions from the public. Some politicians are sympathetic to the conditions under which doctors operate and want to see a compromise reached. Patients associations, however, feel that the doctors are being unreasonable with their demands.

Sardar Zulfiqar Khosa, a prominent leader in Punjab’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) party, said that he would bring up the doctors’ demands at the next provincial cabinet meeting as well as raising the issue with the chief minister. The Patients Welfare Association, however, felt that the doctors were jeopardising patient care. With additional reporting by Shamsul Islam Naz in Faisalabad and Sehrish Wasif in Rawalpindi

Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd,  2011.


Bob | 13 years ago | Reply @Sawan Shah: I think you need to soften your stance a little! I don't think they are demanding this much salary! They are facing the jealousy of those, the bureacrats, whom they have been beating throughout their academic careers. Now they are deciding what the doctors should be, what should they do and how should they do it! Dear your system is based on "Tapism" both red and green. I have a little experience of it.
BST | 13 years ago | Reply @Sawan Shah: that is private sector mr. we are talking abt govt sector where neither the seniors nor the jnrs get anthing........ besides their scarce pay..... open ur eyes................
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