Representatives of the government and doctors’ associations are no closer to an agreement on the induction of doctors at grade 18, though there have been “positive” developments on the issue of allowances.
The two sides met again on Monday to try and reach agreement on a new service structure for doctors employed by the Health Department, an issue which led to a strike led by the Young Doctors Association (YDA) at public hospitals some weeks ago.
On Monday, PML-Nawaz MNA Zahid Hamid chaired a meeting with representatives of the Medical Teachers Association (MTA), the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and the YDA. Special Assistant to the Chief Minister on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique and the secretaries for health, finance, regulations and law also attended the meeting.
A doctor who attended the meeting said that the government had agreed to most of the administrative changes demanded by the doctors, but agreement on financial matters was some way away.
“The major matter still to be settled is induction of doctors in BPS-18,” said the doctor, adding that neither side was yet willing to budge on the matter. He said that the government appeared prepared to raise the Health Professional Allowance (HPA), which would cost about Rs4 billion. Though there has been no cost estimation of inducting doctors in grade-18 rather than grade-17, this would cost far more than Rs4 billion.
YDA representative Dr Abu Bakar said the meeting had been ‘positive’. “They agree with most of our demands in principle, but there are differences in how they would be implemented,” he said. “But things are moving in a positive direction and we are hopeful of progress in our next meeting with Senator Ishaq Dar soon,” he said.
Jinnah Hospital protest
Meanwhile, the YDA continued with its daily demonstrations at public hospitals on Monday, this time protesting at the Jinnah Hospital administration block. The speakers at the rally, rather than chant slogans about the doctors’ demands, discussed poor conditions for patients, drawing support from some patients and their friends and families. Dr Javed, the YDA president of Jinnah Hospital, said facilities at most public hospitals were poor and there was often a shortage of beds. Later, he told reporters that there had been a thaw between the government and doctors.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2012.