LAHORE: Around 80 nurses who were protesting against the construction of a gynae ward and a doctor’s duty room on their hostel lawns were served notices on Wednesday by the administration of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.
Medical Superintendent (MS) Dr Sheikh Ejaz said that the notices were served because of breach of discipline. The administration also allegedly beat up a group of nurses who were attempting to get out of the premises. Mussarat Rafique, who was leading the protest outside the hospital premises, told The Express Tribune that nurses started gathering inside the hospital premises at 2:30 pm.
She said that on orders from the administration security guards beat them up and locked the exits to prevent them from heading out. Ms Rafique alleged that the security guards pulled some protestors’ by hair. However, around 80 nurses did stage a protest condemning the administration and the Punjab government. Dr Ejaz said that the protestors were stopped from leaving the premises to prevent a possible traffic accident. However, he rejected that they were manhandled or beaten up by the security guards.
The construction work was initiated by the administration a month ago but had to be halted on the orders of Dr Asad Ashraf. Ashraf, who is the chairman of chief minister’s task force on health, issued the orders after dozens of staff and student nurses staged a protest outside the Punjab Assembly on April 30. Construction resumed on yesterday and was once again met with stiff resistance from the nurses. The protestors were joined by some human rights and environmental activists. The protestors chanted the slogan: “Saaf Hawa Saaf Mahol Hamara Haq, Hamari Hawa Band Mat Karo, Hamara Lawn Wapus Karo” (Clean air and clean environment is our right, Don’t block our fresh air and Return our hostel lawn).
The protesting nurses told The Express Tribune they had written to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the Chief Justice of Lahore High Court, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and others but none had paid attention to the issue. They said that construction on their hostel lawns amounted to a breach of their rights and the case should be taken up by the courts. “If they can protect parks in Islamabad and Karachi then these lawns should also be safeguarded. The construction would also require the cutting down of a large number of trees,” they added.
Ecogreen Society of Pakistan General Secretary Sumera Awan said that her society has lodged an appeal with the environmental tribunal and asked it to immediately stop the construction work. She said the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) had summoned the hospital administration on May 25 to present a report on the issue. EPA spokesperson Naseemur Rehman confirmed that the agency has sent a notice to the hospital. He said that the EPA director could restrain the administration from constructing the buildings until it got an environmental approval.
Dr Shagufta Shahjahan, the EPA director general, said that she had ordered the district government’s environment department to study the project and submit a report to the EPA. She said that according to the report she got, the administration had not obtained an environmental approval for undertaking the construction.
She added that under Section 12 of Pakistan Environment Protection Act (PEPA) construction could not be started without environmental approval. Dr Shahjahan regretted that a large oxygen tank has already been installed in front of the hostel buildings without providing for adequate safety measures. Dr Ijaz, the MS, said that the administration would deal with the EPA notice and added that construction would not be halted.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 21st, 2010.