LAHORE – As the weekly protest of the Young Doctors Association (YDA), Punjab, was conducted by blocking the big roads surrounding mega teaching hospitals of Lahore and other towns and cities of Punjab recently. The YDA is protesting against the government’s policy whereby health facilities in the province are being outsourced.
According to media reports; The young doctors of Mayo Hospital, de’Montmorency/Punjab Dental Hospital and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital blocked The Mall by holding protest demonstration at Faisal Chowk in front of Punjab Assembly, young doctors of Services Hospital and Punjab Institute of Cardiology blocked Jail Road, young doctors from Children’s Hospital and Lahore General Hospital blocked Ferozepur Road in front of their respective side, while young doctors from Shaikh Zayed Hospital and Jinnah Hospital blocked Canal Road, which virtually crippled the traffic flow and caused tremendous problems for the commuters on the roads.
The YDA’s protest movement kept these busy roads of Lahore closed from 11 am till 1 pm, while young doctors also held strike and blocked roads in Faisalabad, Multan, Gujrat, Rawalpindi, DG Khan, Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Sargodha and other major cities in the province.
The YDA leaders including Dr Amir Bandesha, Dr Ajmal, Dr Adnan, Dr Abid Abbas, Dr Umer Shah, Dr Asif, Dr Usman Maan, Dr Khuzema, Dr Ali Dogar, Dr Shoaib Niazi, Dr Khurram, Dr Tajammal Butt and others led the protest at different locations. The young doctors were carrying banners and placards inscribed with their demands and chanting slogans against the government for depriving doctors of their rights and privatization of hospitals in the province.
The young doctors’ strike caused a great deal of problems for the patients in hospitals as work in OPDs was partially shut and several minor operations were postponed. Besides, the closure of roads created massive inconvenience for people, who remained stuck in traffic for hours. Besides, several ambulances were also stuck in traffic, which endangered the lives of some serious patients.
The YDA leaders, however, had claimed that young doctors didn’t hold a strike or disrupt the healthcare services in hospitals as majority of doctors’ strength continued to provide healthcare services to the patients in emergency, indoor and outdoor wards of their respective hospitals. They claimed that doctors were performing duties in hospitals as usual, and no operations were postponed. However, it proved to be a hollow promise as patients were seen running from pillar to post get the required treatment.
They demanded reversal of Punjab government’s policy of phase-wise privatization of health facilities by starting from outsourcing of all health facilities in 10 districts and EPI programme in two districts in the province; complete implementation of service structure for doctors; fulfilment of promise of promotions and increase of Rs 12,000 in salaries of doctors across the board; regularisation of contract doctors; free hostel rooms for doctors; and provision of already sanctioned 1,500 paid posts for postgraduate trainees in the province.
They demanded resolution of dental cadre issues and PGMI/Shaikh Zayed Hospital’s MS/MD program’s affiliation with King Edward Medical University; resolves issues with Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) including CME/CDE; and improve healthcare and supply of medicines in health facilities and ensure security in hospitals in the province. “We believe that healthcare is the sole responsibility of the state and that it should be free for all,” they added.
Talking to the media, YDA, Punjab, leader Dr Aamir Bandesha said that the Punjab government had decided to outsource health facilities in 10 districts and EPI programme in two districts with effect from October 31, 2015 with complete administrative and financial autonomy, which raised concern over withdrawal of free treatment to patients as well as security of job of doctors, nurses and paramedical staff.
“The Punjab government must pass the bill for privatization of health facilities in Punjab instead of doing it with a stroke of pen,” he said, adding that YDA would resist privatization of health sector in the province. He said that a total of 1,500 PG trainees were serving without pay after the government backtracked from its promise to issue orders of pays to PGs with effect from July 1, 2015.
He said the Punjab government had also backed out of its promise of awarding Rs 2.9 billion to increase salaries of doctors at primary, secondary and tertiary care level. “Besides, the government has also not fulfilled its promise to double the salaries of doctors serving in peripheral areas in Punjab.
The YDA, Punjab, vowed to continue their weekly protest till fulfilment of their demands, saying the date for protest next week will be announced soon.