Both factions of the Young Doctors’ Association continued their strike for the second day on Friday while the government, instead of taking any disciplinary action told the media it was willing to negotiate with the doctors.
The doctors, meanwhile vowed to continue their protest until the transfer orders of 450 colleagues were withdrawn, threatened to extend their strike to all hospitals in the Punjab from Saturday (today).
According to an estimate by health officials, around 200 operations, scheduled at the city’s public hospitals, were cancelled when the doctors boycotted work on Friday. The Outdoor Patients Departments (OPDs) also remained close.
YDA Punjab, headed by Dr Hamid Butt, and YDA Pakistan, headed by Dr Rana Sohail joined cause in criticising the Health Department.
All doctors who were transferred, said YDA Pakistan general secretary Salman Kazmi, were “hand-picked”. He described the postings as “an attempt by the bureaucrats to break the YDA”, vowing to resist the government.
He rejected the Health Department’s claim that the doctors had been transferred to accommodate new doctors recruited by the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC). Kazmi said that the government had accommodated 700 new recruits in 2010 in public hospitals without transferring any doctors. “Why can’t it adopt the same policy,” he asked.
Nasir Bukhari, YDA Punjab’s spokesperson, said “it wasn’t a coincidence” that most of the doctors transferred belonged to the two YDA factions, adding, “That is what we are protesting against”.
Khawaja Salman Rafique, the special assistant to the chief minister on health, called the strike “unethical and totally unjustified”. He said that the striking doctors had “misbehaved” with the principals of medical colleges and senior doctors and stopped them from working. “[Their behaviour] is improper and cannot be permitted in a civilised society,” said Rafique.
He was talking to reporters at the KEMU committee room on Friday. Special secretary for health Dawood Bareach, King Edward Medical University (KEMU) vice chancellor Dr Asad Aslam Khan and Mayo Hospital medical superintendant (MS) Dr Zahid Pervaiz were also present.
Rafique, while replying to a question, said that he believed “as a citizen” that the Supreme Court should take action against the protesting doctors. The Supreme Court directed the doctors during the IsoTab reaction case not to go on strike. When asked why even senior professors were absent from hospitals, he said they were being “pressured” not to work.
Bareach, however, declined to give a statement which, in his words, would aggravate the already-tense situation. “I am not saying the department is right or that the protesting doctors are wrong. All I am saying is they work for the Health Department. They should point out any [violations] in the transfer orders,” he said.
Bareach told reporters that the doctors had been transferred in line with the Civil Servants Act 1974, adding that the summary had been approved by the chief minister. He said that 691 new recruits had to be accommodated, out of which 436 were post graduate residents (those who have completed FCPS- Part 1) and 255 are medical officers who have completed their MBBS.
He rejected the impression that the Health Department had transferred the doctors to break up the YDA. The department, he said, had posted post graduate residents and medical officers to create vacancies for new recruits, adding that the posting orders had “nothing to do” with the doctors’ affiliation with any group. The doctors have been transferred to the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), Kot Khawaja Saeed Hospital, Mian Munshi Hospital and Government Said Mitha Hospital, Bareach said, adding “no one’s been transferred out of Lahore”.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2012.