LAHORE: The deadlock between the Punjab government and young doctors took an ugly turn on Tuesday when senior doctors, nurses and paramedics refused to perform their duties at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), Lahore, to express solidarity with the detained and sacked young doctors.
The strike in the outdoor wards has entered the 16th day, while the closure of indoor and emergency services is continuing for the last couple of days. Meanwhile, the Pakistan Army doctors also left their offices at 2pm, leaving the cardiac patients in a fix.
The Punjab government, on the other hand, continued adopting desperate measures to ensure delivery of healthcare services in emergency, indoor and outdoor wards of hospitals by calling in military and police doctors, doctors from Social Security Hospitals and by inducting 200 medical officers (male) through the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC). The government has also promised security for all doctors performing their duties in hospitals.
However, these measures proved insufficient as neither they were able to provide satisfactory treatment to a large number of patients nor were they trained enough to cope with the extraordinary situation. “These doctors are not trained to work in emergency wards or critical care departments such as ICUs/CCUs,” senior doctors said. Besides, they said the administrations of hospitals had to face a crisis-like situation, especially in emergency wards, after the military medical officers left their duties at 2pm. Similarly, the other doctors, called from different departments as a stop-gap arrangement, were also unable to work in all three shifts.
According to sources, at least four patients, including three child patients, expired due to unavailability of medical aid in the Nursery Ward of the Services Hospital, while another patient died due to denial of treatment in Mayo Hospital on Tuesday. However, according to the administration of different hospitals, deaths were wrongly being attributed to lack of treatment facilities. They said the patients had been dying due to natural causes. “It may be confirmed by comparing the chart of daily deaths occurring before and after the present situation in hospitals,” said Dr Zahid Pervaiz, Medical Superintendent of Mayo Hospital, while adding that there was hardly any difference between the rate of daily deaths before and after the strike; rather the rate of deaths has dropped to some extent in the Mayo Hospital during the last couple of days.
The police, meanwhile, raided the hostel of King Edward Medical University late on Monday night and apprehended over a dozen students and PG trainees. However, they were released early in the morning.
As there is no development on talks between the two sides, approximately 20,000 doctors are still observing a strike in all departments of public sector hospitals. Even the health secretary’s notice of dismissals for failing to report could not bring the young doctors back.
The lady doctors are facing a double dilemma as they fear manhandling by the YDA activists on the one hand and arrests by the police on the other hand, mainly due to lack of guarantee of physical as well as job security by the Punjab government.
The YDA Punjab has been emboldened by the moral support of YDA chapters of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, various doctors associations, including Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), Medical Teachers Association (MTA) and Punjab Paramedical Alliance (PPA), Pakistan Academy of Family Physicians (PAFP), Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) as well as tacit support of political parties.
Therefore, the YDA Punjab sticks to its stance and refused to budge in the face of any pressure and demanded unconditional apology from the Punjab government over a crackdown on the YDA leaders, release of their detained colleagues, withdrawal of cases and termination orders to be able to sit across the table to negotiate over the proposed service structure for doctors in the province.
There is no flexibility on the other side either, as the Punjab government wanted the YDA Punjab to call off their strike unconditionally to move ahead on holding talks over young doctors’ main demand of service structure.
When contacted, Health Secretary Capt (retd) Arif Nadeem was not available for comments.The Punjab Health Department, according to statistics collected from various teaching hospitals of the province, claimed that 19,571 patients were treated in the outdoor wards on July 3, while 10,046 patients visited emergency wards for medical assistance.
According to a handout here on Tuesday, the alternative arrangements made by the government after the strike of young doctors have yielded results and the situation has started normalising.
The health department claimed that doctors of southern Punjab announced their disassociation with the strike of young doctors in the province and treatment wasbeing provided to patients as per routine in hospitals. According to a handout, about 90 percent young doctors have returned to their duties in the Nishtar Hospital Multan, while doctors are engaged in provision of medical facilities to patients in government hospitals in Bahawalpur as well.