After a hiatus of a few months, doctors are out on the roads again. Their demands are the same –notification of pay increase, service structure and regularisation of contracted doctors – and same is their method of protest.
The strike by the Young Doctors Association (YDA) of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) continued for the second day on Wednesday.
Services at all outpatient departments (OPD) of the hospital remained suspended throughout the day. The doctors also boycotted scheduled operations and performed only emergency procedures.
A YDA representative said if the government continued to ignore their demands, they will consider shutting down the hospital’s emergency department as well.
YDA Pims was the first association to welcome the formal approval of service structure, pay raise and regularisation of contracted doctors announced by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in April this year. Other bodies representing young doctors from Polyclinic, National Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine and other federal hospitals had opposed it. Interestingly, save for YDA Pims, the demands of other YDAs have been met.
Pims YDA President Dr Sajid Abbasi said the notification for the service structure, pay raise and regularisation was supposed to be issued on June 30 this year but this did not happen. After several meetings with Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) and Pims Executive Director Dr Mehmood Jamal the association decided to go on strike.
Dr Abbasi said they had only been shown an office memorandum so far which is unacceptable. “The strike will continue until we are issued a formal notification,” he said.
Pims Executive Director Dr Mehmood Jamal said, “The hospital management is supporting the Pims YDA and has taken the matter to the CADD.”
“It is confirmed that the service structure of YDA will be implemented as announced by the Prime Minister (PM). Since it is an old issue the process will take time,” he added, saying that he hoped the issue will be resolved as soon as PM Gilani returns from his foreign visit.
Polyclinic YDA have decided to not join their Pims counterparts. Polyclinic YDA President Dr Mohammad Ajmal said it was too early to start holding protests. “The YDAs of others federal hospitals are not supporting them either,” he added.
Meanwhile an official, on condition of anonymity, said the Pims administration did not forward the proposal containing YDA’s demands to the higher-ups. The official alleged that some Pims YDA members tried to get promotions for dodging the issue. “Due to this insincerity of officials dealing with the problem, the issue is still pending,” the official said.
So far services of 377 doctors and nurses, including four doctors from Pims, falling under the federal administration have been regularised.
Caught in the cross fire
The biggest sufferers in this “fight for rights” have turned out to be the patients. Those who come from far-flung areas and cannot afford the luxury of private hospital are left stranded at the biggest referral hospital of the country when such a thing happens.
The hospital ED, Dr Jamal said also urged the doctors to show restraint and be patient. “Besides, whatever the YDA is doing it is out of peer pressure,” he said, adding that the hospital will ensure that patients are provided timely medical care. “We will try to ensure basic health services to all patients visiting the hospital during the strike.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2011.