Doctors across Punjab continued their strike Sunday, while unattended patients continued to suffer at hospitals across the province. A total of 22 patients have died across Punjab due to the strike.
Three more patients died in the Nishtar Hospital bringing the death toll in Multan alone to 17, while a patient died in Faisalabad in the morning after being denied medical care.
More than 700 protesting doctors have resigned so far, as the Punjab government has refused to give in to their demands.
The Punjab government has recruited 300 fresh doctors and ordered the Heath Department to issue suspension letters of striking doctors by tomorrow morning. The president of Young Doctors Association has been sacked and 60 post graduate trainees have been suspended as young doctors refuse to call off their strike.
The provincial government has also issued show-cause notices to 84 protesting medical officers. A government’s spokesperson said the sacked doctors would be barred from practising privately or in public hospitals across the province.
Sources say that senior doctors have also gone on strike to support the young doctors. Only two doctors are on duty at the Allied Hospital Faisalabad.
The General Body of the Young Doctors Association has refused to call off their strike until their demands are met.
Blood is on Shahbaz Sharif’s hands says Riaz
Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Raja Riaz said on Saturday that he would seek to lodge murder cases against Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif because he was responsible for the deaths that occurred during the ongoing doctors’ strike.
Riaz told The Express Tribune that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) workers would collect data from each hospital about deaths during the strike. They would also reach out to families who had lost loved ones and put them in touch with party legislators to help them seek legal remedy. He said that he would visit police stations personally and seek to get cases registered against the chief minister. If the police refused, he would move the Lahore High Court, he said.
Law Minister Rana Sanaullah brushed off the threat, saying that he hoped that the opposition leader would not object if cases were registered against the federal government over deaths in federal government hospitals in the Punjab.
Blame it on Sharif
Riaz said that the escalation of the standoff between the provincial government and the Young Doctors Association was all down to Sharif. At 4pm on March 31, he said, the YDA Punjab and Senior Advisor Sardar Zulifqar Khosa had reached a deal to end the strike.
The two sides signed a agreement, Riaz said, adding that he had seen a copy of it provided to him by the YDA. He said it was agreed that the chief minister would announce the deal at 9pm that same day. Meanwhile, he said, the YDA announced that the strike was over.
But before 9pm, Riaz claimed, the chief minister was “deliberately misled” by Health Secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad about the contents of the agreement. “Sharif always relies on the briefings of the bureaucracy. He thinks they are the only ones who can solve the problems of the province,” he said.
He said that a YDA Punjab delegation went to the chief minister’s officer at 90, The Mall, to meet Sharif. But when they got there, they were told the meeting had been cancelled. The YDA Punjab called Khosa, but he did not answer his mobile phone, Riaz said. Later that night, the YDA Punjab announced the resumption of their strike.
“The chief minister is very arrogant; he thinks he’s a Mughal emperor. He snubbed the YDA Punjab and because of his stubbornness, dozens of patients have died,” Riaz said. “It’s in his psyche to solve every problem through brutal police torture.”
He added that he would ask the Punjab Assembly speaker to summon the chief minister to attend a special session of the assembly on the issue.
Law Minister Sanaullah said that Riaz’s statement had “exposed those behind the doctors’ strikes” and that his party would suffer for bringing doctors into politics. He said that Riaz should not talk about the doctors, but answer questions instead about the “petrol bomb” the federal government had set off.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 03rd, 2011.