Work in government-run hospitals has been disrupted after junior doctors staged strikes across almost the entire country.
In Balochistan, doctors continued a province-wide strike at state-run hospitals for the 19th consecutive day on Wednesday. All out-patient departments (OPDs) of major hospitals in Quetta remained closed while scheduled surgical operations were cancelled. “There is no doctor here,” said Abdul Rashid who came from nearby Pishin district and was waiting at the OPD of the Sandeman Hospital.
President of the Young Doctors Association (YDA), Balochistan, Abdul Samad Panezai said that doctors have two major demands: Pay raise and enhancement of benefits. “We were on a peaceful strike but now the doctors are compelled to intensify the protest as the government is unconcerned and unmoved,” he said.
In Peshawar, protesting doctors in Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) on Wednesday joined the protest, while doctors in the largest health care facility – Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) – will follow suit on Thursday, Provincial Doctors Association (PDA) announced. Doctors at two major tertiary care hospitals of the province: Khyber Teaching Hospital Peshawar and Ayub Teaching Hospital Abbotabad went on strike on Monday. PDA chief Dr Shah Sawar Khan said that the strike would continue till the acceptance of a seven-point demand formula, including special salary packages, a four-tier service structure, employment of around 6,000 jobless doctors, training of around 280 doctors who have completed their FCPS-I, stipend for those doing their diplomas and for those with security and accommodation issues.
Doctors in Punjab are planning to hold demonstrations starting from May 21 to force the government to accept the rest of their demands. The Punjab government gave approval to a pay package of Rs5.2 billion which was welcomed by YDA Punjab on May 9.
A leader of the YDA Punjab Dr Rai Ahmad Khan said that although the government had accepted their pay raise demand, it had ignored other demands. He said that “most probably” the doctors will not close OPDs and will record their protests by wearing black armbands or blocking roads. A final decision in this regard will be taken in a meeting to be held in Rawalpindi, he said.
YDA Sindh, however, called off on Wednesday its boycott of OPDs in various public hospitals after being assured its demands will be met.
“For now, we have called off the strike across Sindh as we have been assured that our demands will be addressed by the chief minister by next week,” YDA president at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) Dr Azizullah Diloo said.
OPDs at JPMC, National Institute for Child Health (NICH) and the Civil Hospital, Karach, were still closed on Wednesday as another strike called by the joint action committee continues.
According to a member of the committee, their strike is over the devolution of federal hospitals to the province and that has not been called off yet.
(With input from Shehzad Baloch from Quetta, Manzoor Ali from Peshawar, Abdul Manan from Lahore and Mahnoor Sherazee from Karachi)
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2011.