ISLAMABAD: Employees of the largest tertiary care hospital in the federal capital shut down the outpatient department (OPD) at the hospital for two hours on Saturday as they protested a decision of the government to set up a board of governors for the facility.
The employees have threatened to completely shut down the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) unless the decision is reversed.
The protesters said that instead of going forwards and providing them, the employees, benefits, the government seems to be heading backwards. They stated that they will not allow the government to destroy their institution.
Dr Asfandyar, a spokesperson for the Pims Employees Union, dispelled the notion that their strike would come at the cost of patients — as was the case in Sindh where doctors are also protesting demanding better pay, rights and facilities.
“The patients are always our first priority and we serve them beyond our capabilities and potential,” Dr Asfandyar said.
He, however, added that the government was planning to handover the hospital to a group of people who may destroy the institution.
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He reminded that the staff of the hospital had, after prolonged agitation, had managed to force the government into separating the hospital from the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University (SZABMU) only recently.
Regarding the OPD shutdown, he said it was only for a limited period of two hours due to the impending visit of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
However, he went on to threaten a complete shut down the hospital if their demands were ignored by the hospital administration. Moreover, he said that if it came to that point, they were ready to escalate matters and spread their protest to other hospitals of the federal capital as well.
Pims Employee Union Chairman Sharif Khattak warned that they could turn their protest into a march on the parliament if the government does not reverse their decision on appointing a board of governors.
He added that they wanted to ‘save’ the hospital from operating under a Board of Governors.
Khattak, however, clarified they wanted Pims to have an independent status and that they were willing to do anything for that purpose.
Sadaqat Awan, the union’s senior vice president, stated that they have expressed their concerns to a delegation headed by Federal Health Minister Aamir Mehmood Kiani after which the government had promised to hold another consultative meeting with them. However, the government seems to have gone back on its promise and have introduced an ordinance regarding the board which was not acceptable to them.
The Prime Minister’s Task Force on Health has been working on plans to make Pims an autonomous institution and to run it through a board of governors. Employees of the hospital will then be asked to either opt for the autonomous body or get sent to the pool of surplus employees.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2019.
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