The Young Doctors Association (YDA) Punjab is planning protests outside public hospitals from today (Tuesday) and a sit-in at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat at 7 Club Road or his camp office in Minar-i-Pakistan next week as it steps up its campaign for better allowances and perks.
The YDA Punjab has been on strike since last Monday at outpatient departments in public hospitals. YDA spokesman Nasir Bokhari said that they had not been contacted for negotiations and so they were planning to step up their protest campaign from Tuesday.
“First we will stage a protest outside Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, then at Children’s Hospital, then Jinnah Hospital and then Mayo Hospital on Friday. The YDA General Council meeting scheduled for Thursday has now been shifted to Saturday in Rawalpindi. Next week we will we have a huge sit-in at the CM’s camp at Minar-i-Pakistan or at 7 Club Road,” said YDA General Council member Dr Usman Dar.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) is to invite the Private Hospital Owners Association, Pakistan Academy of Family Physicians, Pakistan Society of Family Physicians, Medical Teachers Association, YDA Punjab and YDA Pakistan to a meeting on Wednesday to discuss a joint strategy for their campaign. PMA General Secretary Dr Izhar Chaudhary said that invitation letters would be sent to all doctors’ associations for the Wednesday meeting.
PMA officials said that they were planning to hold the meeting at the Lahore Gymkhana but could also hold it at PMA House on Ferozepur Road. In a statement issued on Monday, YDA Pakistan accused the Punjab government of misleading the public concerning the doctors’ demands for changes to their service structure. On Sunday, Special Assistant to the Chief Minister on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique had criticised the doctors’ demands as unrealistic and said they would come at the cost of the free healthcare programme for the poor.
“If the doctors are not there in the hospitals, all free medicines, new buildings, dialysis centres, air conditioners and generators will go to waste and the public will not be able to get treatment,” YDA officials said.
Rafique had said that a medical officer in grade 17 had twice the pay (Rs60,000 per month) of a government officer in grade 17. The YDA officials said that they were not comparable, since government departments worked from 8am to 2pm while doctors worked “24/7 the whole week and are on duties even on Sunday and national holidays”.
They said that a new graduate doctor inducted in grade 17 had a salary of Rs24,000 per month, while a High Court stenographer, also in grade 17, had a salary of Rs65,000 per month.
They said that rather than budget Rs17 billion on the construction of new hospitals, the government should concentrate on filling the vacant doctors’ positions in existing hospitals. The government should instead spend Rs6 billion on a one-scale promotion of all doctors, on raising the stipend for postgraduate trainee doctors and raising the non-practising allowance, which are the doctors’ immediate demands for ending the strike. Meanwhile, patients continued to suffer as outpatient departments in public hospitals remained closed for an eighth day on Monday. Iqbal Hussain from Chichawatni had brought his wife to Jinnah Hospital for an operation to remove a cyst on her liver, but it had to be postponed due to the strike.
He said he could not afford private treatment and was very worried about her health.
“The doctors are saying stable patients cannot be treated in the emergency ward, but if the cyst on her liver bursts, there can be no treatment,” Hussain said.
In Bahawalpur, some 40 patients protested outside Victoria Hospital on Monday after being turned away from the outpatient department. They accused the doctors of indifference to the plight of the poor.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2012.
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