Patients frustrated as OPDs remain closed for second day

Doctors vow to prevent imposition of MTI law

Our Correspondent May 04, 2019

RAWALPINDI: Patients had to return home empty-handed for a second consecutive day on Friday after doctors continued their boycott of outpatient departments at the three allied hospitals of Rawalpindi.

Doctors have been boycotting their duties at the outpatient departments (OPDs) of the Benazir Bhutto General Hospital (BBH), Holy Family Hospital (HFH) and the District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ).

On a strike call given by the Young Doctors Association (YDA) Punjab, doctors, paramedical staff and nurses at the three hospitals shut down OPD rooms by putting locks on them.

The protesting medical staff then marched through the hospital's compounds while raising slogans against the proposed Medical Teaching Institute (MTI) Act which the Punjab government wants to impose on government-run hospitals across the province. As a result of the strike, the gynaecology, paediatrics, ear, nose and throat (ENT), Orthopedic, and dental wings could not entertain patients.

Doctors said that thousands of patients visit the three of the biggest hospitals of Rawalpindi every day for medical checkups.

“We do not want to add to the pain of the public,” doctors said, adding that through their strike, they only want to tell the provincial government not to impose the MIT Act in public hospitals.

Dr Shoaib Tarrar of the YDA said that the doctors’ community strongly condemned the proposed MTI Act and that they will continue their protests until their demands are met.

Other protesting doctors and staff said that public hospitals are the last and often the first resort for some to get treatment. But the imposition of the MTI act will spell the end of that.

They added that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led government had imposed a similar law in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa's hospitals after which a large number of patients started heading to public hospitals in Punjab, particularly in Rawalpindi.

The medical staffers contended that once the MIT law is enacted, free medical consultation will cost around Rs200, while fixed rates will have to be paid for tests, treatment, operation and other medical expenses.

They warned that their protests and strikes will intensify if their demands are not accepted.

In the next phase of their protest, they said, emergency services could also be suspended.

"I brought my younger sister from New Kataria for eye surgery at the HFH but doctors told me that they were on strike and hence, could not perform the surgery," complained attendant Raza Khan.

He was among a large number of patients who came to the OPDs of the three hospitals but found the slip counters and other facilities closed and had to return empty-handed.

While the OPDs were closed, medical staff in the emergency, ITC and operation theatres continued to work as per routine.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2019.


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