Concern for patients: Doctor’s strike continues

Insiders say Health Department is waiting to see how PMA swings.


Ali Usman June 22, 2012

LAHORE:


“Young doctors shouldn’t pursue their demands at the cost of patients who are suffering because of the Young Doctors’ Association (YDA) strike,” Medical Teachers Association (MTA) President Prof Javed Akram said on Friday.


Prof Akram told The Express Tribune that the MTA did not support the closure of out-patient departments (OPDs) at public hospitals which had deprived hundreds of poor patients their right to free treatment. “Many patients come to public hospitals from other cities and face disappointment whey they are denied treatment due to the closure of OPDs,” he said.

MTA was part of the committee formed by the Punjab government to resolve the issue of service structure in May. However, no MTA representative attended the meeting held at the Civil Secretariat to discuss financial matters related to service structure on Wednesday. YDA and Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) representatives were present at the meeting.

“Some members of MTA had suggested they were disassociating themselves from the strike. Since YDA has gone on strike, they haven’t supported it publicly,” a YDA office bearer told the Tribune.

Prof Akram said he had repeatedly asked the YDA to consider another option to register their protest.

Meanwhile, the OPD strike on the YDA’s call entered its fifth day on Friday. The last meeting between government and the doctors was held on Wednesday.

“We contacted the Health Department on Thursday and they didn’t set any time for the meeting. We have brought our demands down to Rs6 billion but the government has still not made a commitment,” said Dr Muddasir Razzaq Khan who on Wednesday had attended the meeting with the Finance Department officials on behalf of the YDA.

YDA Punjab spokesperson Dr Nasir Bokhari said the strike would continue until their demands were accepted. “The ball is in the government’s court. We have held negotiations … and discussed the financial matters. There has been no serious response since the last meeting,” he said.

A Health Department official said the government wanted to see the PMA’s reaction. “MTA is not supporting YDA … PMA has convened a meeting on Sunday to discuss its strategy. The Health Department will likely finalise its strategy after that meeting,” he added.

A King Edward Medical University professor, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, “The patients who normally approach public hospitals cannot afford private treatment. It is difficult for them to pay private hospital fees. They are now going to quacks who charge less.”

Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique told the Tribune that the government would continue negotiations with protesting doctors to resolve the strike issue. “Their demands are still too high. We cannot spend the entire development budget on fulfilling their demands. A doctor in BPS-17 draws a salary that is quite higher than other officers at that level. Doctors need to be rational in their demands,” said.

Published In The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2012.

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