Punjab health workers go on strike as countrywide polio drive approaches

Published: February 9, 2018
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More than 1,500 nutritionists from across province protest at Punjab Assembly, demand permanent employee status. PHOTO: EXPRESS

More than 1,500 nutritionists from across province protest at Punjab Assembly, demand permanent employee status. PHOTO: EXPRESS

More than 1,500 nutritionists working at basic health units (BHU) across Punjab gathered outside the provincial assembly on Friday, demanding the government grant them permanent employee status.

The employees they would boycott the forthcoming polio campaign, especially in the remote areas, if their demands were not met. The drive to vaccinate against the crippling polio disease is scheduled to kick-off across the country on Monday.

President Punjab Nutritionists Association (PNA) Chaudhry Jamil told The Express Tribune that Punjab Health Department had hired the nutritionists in 2007 to provide them health education and train on running medical screening in government schools.

The employees also served during the polio and dengue campaigns, he added.

“But now the government has decided not to grant us permanent status, which is not acceptable at any cost,” Jamil said.

He added the BHU men and women have been protesting despite the cold weather for the past two days but no official or member of a political party has visited them.

Punjab health workers participate in sit-in demonstration outside Punjab Assembly. PHOTO: Express

Punjab health workers participate in sit-in demonstration outside Punjab Assembly. PHOTO: Express

“We provide health education at the doorsteps of the people of Punjab,” he maintained.

PNA general secretary Hafiz Munir, “We have warned them and we’ll do whatever it takes to have our demands met.”

‘Mega projects to revolutionise healthcare in South Punjab’

He said the law enforcement authorities are also pressuring them to call off the protest as it is “disrupting the flow of traffic of the main thoroughfare”.

Protesters accuse law enforcement authorities of pressuring them into calling off the sit-in. PHOTO: Express

PHOTO: EXPRESS

Sohail Baluch, a nutritionist from Multan said the health department laying off people is adding to their daily life stresses.

“How are we expected to find employment if they are going to relieve us from our current jobs?” Baluch asked.

According to the data shared by the former office bearer at Young Doctors Association and activist of trade union workers called Red Workers Front Dr Aftab Ashraf, the protesting health workers have been bringing the provincial capital to a standstill since last year.

As many as 300 different demonstrations have taken place in Lahore since January 2017. In most cases, the protests were against the privatisation of public-sector medical institutes.

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