There has been much criticism, mostly emotional in nature, of doctors who’ve gone on a strike in Punjab. It is important that before condemning these doctors, we try to understand the real issues and undercurrents of their movements. It is unfortunate that politicians, and even the media, are presenting the issue in a distorted way while hiding the real issues. The on-strike doctors are not asking for personal gains; they demand stability and restructuring of public healthcare system. The healthcare system in Punjab faces a few chronic problems. There is a lack of proper service structure for doctors due to which, many qualified doctors either opt for CSS or leave the country for better work environment and salaries.
A sector as crucial as healthcare has been continuously managed by non-technical bureaucrats who have little understanding of the needs, directions or trends of this highly skilled profession. There are rumours that the Punjab government is trying to privatise the healthcare system (just like it has privatised other social services, for example solid waste management). Privatisation is not the solution to every problem that exists in our public-sector institutions. The results of such a policy can be horrendous for a country like Pakistan where the majority of people can’t afford the expenses of private hospitals and go to government-run hospitals.
The worse effects of continued mismanagement of the provincial health department by bureaucrats have become obvious in the recent years. It is to solve the above-mentioned issues that the doctors have been protesting for a long time, demanding a progressive service structure. And as punishment for raising their voice, they are being arrested on flimsy allegations. I wonder how many bureaucrats who purchased poor quality insecticides during the dengue epidemic and contaminated drugs, and sanctioned worthless projects have ever been tried.
Strikes and protests are becoming a routine affair in Pakistan. Young doctors in Punjab are once again on the roads. While the people of Punjab are thankful to military doctors who have taken charge of various public-sector hospitals, they also realise that calling in the army every time the country faces a crisis is not a good sign. This will not solve the real issue.
The YDA’s going on strike after every few months shows that the Punjab government’s policies are ill-planned. What we need is a well-planned healthcare policy to ensure smooth governance at all levels.
Ahmed Azeem Butt
This is with reference to young doctors’ strike in Punjab. Going on strike is a highly unprofessional move on the part of young doctors. There are other ways of registering one’s protest. If the doctors want the government to accept their demands, they should follow the legal way and file a case in a court of law.
A large number of patients are suffering due to doctors’ strike and at least eleven people, who weren’t given emergency treatment on time, have died. Who is responsible for this situation? It is even more disheartening to learn that the on-strike doctors are threatening some of those doctors who are willing to see patients.
Ghulam Ali Jakhro
The demands of young doctors are not unreasonable. But they are being portrayed as villains taking lives of people. In reality it is the stubborn and incompetent people at the helm in the Punjab government who are playing with the lives of poor innocent people. The whole issue started because of non-acceptance of merit and higher education of doctors as the criteria for deciding their salaries and promotions.
In the early 1960s, the starting salary of a government doctor was equal to that of a major of the Pakistan Army. Today, the salary of a major is equal to that of a grade 20 officer. This does not include the plots, houses and other facilities given to them during service and after retirement. In comparison, what are the poor doctors getting?