LAHORE: The provincial capital has been besieged by protests from health workers in 2017 as 200 different demonstrations have taken place since January 2017. In most cases, the protests were against public medical institutes being privatised.
Despite repeated assurances from the government, the continued demonstrations showed that health department employees were far from convinced.
Records showed that since January, employees of the health department, from different bodies, took to the streets and blocked main thoroughfares, apart from boycotting ODPs along with other hospital functions.
The organisations included Health Support Staff, Punjab Paramedical Alliance, Young Nursing Association, Allied Health Organisation, All Pakistan Laboratories Association, Employees Association, Young power Association, Young Doctors Association Pakistan, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), United Health Federation, Pakistan Laboratories Technologists, Young Pharmacist Associations, Pakistan Pharmacist Association, Dispenser Association, Pakistan Chemist and Retailer Association, Bio Chemist Association and pharmaceutical companies.
In some hospitals, patients and attendants also held protests over the refusal of medics to provide health facilities. Due to the actions of health employees, some mothers had to give birth to their infants on the streets in front of different hospitals including Raiwind Hospital and Sir Ganga Ram.
In these protests, most demanded an end to what they believed was the inevitable privatisation of hospitals. Their other demands included the reinstatement of sacked employees, regularisation of daily wagers and an end to the marginalisation of pharmacists. They were also after the sacking of Punjab Health Secretary Najam Ahmed Shah.
However, the most important of their demands was the removal of the Central Induction Policy. In protests against the policy, the YDA took out the streets and closed down OPDs along with hospital functions.
The Services hospital was the most effected hospital during YDA protests.
The situation was exasperated when an anti-corruption raided at the Services Hospital on February 18 and arrested YDA President Dr Atif Majeed Chaudhry. Later, young doctors closed down the OPDs and emergency wards of different Lahore hospitals for several days. As a result, thousands of patients were deprived of medical assistance, while two people reportedly died at the Services hospital and Faisalabad Hospital.
According to Health Department, Dr. Atif Majeed Chudhry was involved in several corruption scandals and the anti-corruption was wanted to investigate him. However, officials have been unable to take him into custody. YDA also stepped down over their demand of removing the CIP and softened their stance against the s–called ‘privatisation.
A doctor, on the condition of anonymity, while talking to the media, said “it is a wonder that they are not starting their protests. The government did not approve any demands.”
He said even the one doctor, one attendant policy could not be implemented as yet, while the central induction policy was also implemented.
On the other hand, they are going to adopt privatization policy on the name of public private partnership. “The YDA silence is questionable and has raised several questions,” he added.
When contacted, a health department spokesman said the government was successful in getting the doctors to the negotiating table. He added all issues were solved through mutual understanding.