The city’s doctors stood united on Monday as they closed their doors to all patients visiting public and private hospitals and clinics. They were protesting the increased number of targeted attacks on medical practitioners.
Their major demands included adequate security measures for the doctors, legal access to arms, compensations to families, transfer of cases to anti-terrorism or military courts.
The doctors gave the provincial government more than 15 days to address the issues of doctors in the city. If they fail to see any concrete steps taken, the doctors’ association will announce their next plan. Responding to the strike call given by the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), all the doctors’ organisations and doctors of private facilities, such as Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) and Liaquat National Hospital, boycotted their duties.
The protest did, however, cause suffering to several patients particularly those who had travelled from other parts of Sindh. Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) emergency received nearly 1,500 patients as the out-patients department remained shut. A similar situation was witnessed in Civil hospital. “We are sorry for the people who had to suffer due to our strike,” said PMA Karachi president Dr Idrees Adhi.
“It is the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens,” said the joint executive director and in-charge of the emergency ward at JPMC, Dr Seemin Jamali. She admitted that it was difficult to manage all patients coming into the emergency ward.
Supporting the strike call, Dr Jamali told The Express Tribune that most of the senior doctors are being compelled to leave the country due to the unstable law and order situation. “Who will treat the patients if everyone leaves Pakistan?”
The doctors at AKUH also showed solidarity by holding a demonstration and wearing black ribbons on their arms. “It [the protest] was just to show solidarity with the doctors’ community,” clarified the AKUH spokesperson. “Nothing was disturbed.” The doctors of the Liaquat National Hospital also staged a protest to ask the government to provide them security.
Around 2,000 doctors, specialists, consultants and senior professors also gathered at PMA House on Monday morning. A candlelight vigil was held for all those doctors who have been targeted in the city in the last couple of years.
“It is not an ordinary issue and we stand united across Sindh,” said Dr Ghulam Mujtaba Memon, the president of the Sindh Doctors Welfare Association. He confirmed to The Express Tribune that their scheduled operations were not delayed. “It was the first step of our protest,” he warned.
A day earlier, the Sindh health department officials had tried to negotiate with the doctors but their efforts failed. Dr Adhi told The Express Tribune that senior health and police officials are scheduled to meet them on Wednesday.
Deserted Doctor’s Line
Doctor’s Line in Saddar, Hyderabad, where hundreds of doctors have their private clinics remained deserted on Monday as the medical practitioners responded to PMA’s call. Meanwhile, OPD services were boycotted in Civil and other taluka hospitals in Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and Nawabshah divisions as well.
Issues in the health department, such as delays in promotions, alleged nepotism and corruption are also part of the doctors’ grievances against the provincial government. “Our protest movement will not end until the Sindh government addresses our concerns,” announced PMA Sindh general secretary Dr Pir Manzoor Ali.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2015.