All outpatient departments of the public hospitals in Islamabad remained shut on Tuesday as health professionals and non-medical staff observed a complete strike.
As the protests spread across the federal hospitals, it spells bad news for patients waiting for the strike to end.
The health professionals and non-medical staff assembled at D-Chowk near the parliament house to protest against the service structure for health professionals. The call for the protest was given by the joint action committee of employees of federal government hospital.
Among these, Nazia, 28, wishes for an end to the strike, as she has been recommended an immediate surgery for stones in her gall bladder. “If it’s not timely operated, it may burst or create other complications,” she said.
A mother of two and wife of a cabbie from Khanna Pul, wait is all she can do despite her frail condition. “I’ve been suffering from high fever and vomiting but all I can do is wait for these strikes to end,” she said. For short term relief, her doctor has prescribed some medicines which cost Rs5,000 per month which are out of her husband’s reach.
Many such patients are being forced to make do with “expensive short-term relief” while others do not even have this luxury. On the other hand, the unrelenting doctors are not willing to settle for anything less than what they are asking for.
Timeline of the latest fall out
On January 2 this year, full strike was called by the Joint Action Committee at Pims. Later, it also started at Polyclinic Hospital. The strike is being called by all those health professionals and non-medical staff who under new service structure decided to stay under Basic Pay Scale structure instead of adopting health personnel pay scale (HPS). Now they are demanding the government to provide them the same salary structure and perks and privileges that are given under the HPS.
On January 9, when they got assurance from the Minister for Religious Affairs Khurshid Shah regarding fulfillment of their demands, they called off the strike.
Later on January 13, Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) Secretary Inayat Elahi called Executive Director Polyclinic Hospital Shaukat Kiani who presented the demands of the health professionals to him. The demands were signed and sent to the Prime Minister for approval.
On Tuesday, however, the doctors took to the roads when the date given by Elahi and Shah passed without the issuance of a formal notification.
“We have given an ultimatum to the government; if by tomorrow (Wednesday) we do not get the notification for our two demands, one timeframe promotions and second to get risk allowance, we will again march towards the D-Chowk,” said Joint Action Committee spokesperson Syed Manzar Abbas Naqvi. “And if in 72 hours all our demands will not be entertained we will lock both indoor and outdoor wards,” he added.
Meanwhile, Young Doctors Association (YDA) Pims Chapter President Dr Asfandyar Khan condemned the strike on the behalf of all the doctors of Pims, who are making all-out efforts to continue practice. “All doctors are not on strike; they are trying to see all the patients. The strike is fully supported by the hospital administration,” he said.
On the other hand, when contacted, Pims Executive Director Mehmood Jamal said the hospital administration is not at all backing the strike. “The ongoing strike had created disturbance in the hospital and the staff has been divided in two groups,” he said, adding that the health professionals who are under HPS want to attend patients whereas the non-medical staff under BPS are not letting them do so. “Last year YDA went on strike and did not let others work, this time the situation is opposite,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2012.