The Punjab government once again played the role of a silent spectator as patients and their attendants in public sector hospitals suffered due to complete strike of the Young Doctors Association (YDA), Punjab, in out-patient departments (OPDs) across the province on Monday.
The doctors also vowed to extend the strike for an indefinite period of time until their demand for service structure was fulfilled.
The young doctors’ strike in the outdoor wards caused inconvenience to patients and their attendants in all teaching hospitals of Lahore. The treatment services in emergency wards, indoor wards, operation theatres and ICU/CCU, however, continued uninterrupted on Monday. However, the patients feared that the emergency and indoor services could also be affected if the government didn’t resolve the issue at the earliest.
Doctors posted in emergency wards said that the load of patients had increased in emergency wards following the closure of services in OPDs. Besides, patients also had to face a lot of difficulties besides bearing the ordeal of long wait to get treatment in emergency wards.
The patients, requiring emergency services, were also poorly treated as they were not satisfied with the standard of treatment in emergency wards. The patients and their attendants were seen cursing the young doctors, who had taken the health system hostage every time they wished for their petty issues. They also condemned the government for showing complete indifference to resolve the healthcare crisis. They demanded the government take strict action against young doctors who were creating hurdles in the delivery of healthcare services to patients.
The patients also urged the Lahore High Court to take suo motu action against the illegal and unjustified strike in hospitals. The court was also appealed to to take action against doctors who were committing contempt of court by holding strikes in violation of the ruling of the Supreme Court.
The senior doctors, though, supported the demand of young doctors but opposed the idea to multiply the sufferings of the poor patients, urging the government to resolve the crisis at the earliest to mitigate the sufferings of the poor patients and their attendants.
When contacted, the YDA, Punjab, spokesman Dr Aftab Ashraf said that the young doctors had observed complete strike in outdoor wards in all teaching hospitals, DHQ/THQ hospitals and other public sector hospitals across the province, vowing to continue strike till the issuance of notification of service structure of doctors in the province. He said that YDA would consider extending the canvas of strike if the government tried to threaten or coerce the young doctors. At the moment, he added, the young doctors did not want to disturb emergency and indoor services in the hospitals. He said that the young doctors would not be hoodwinked by the government with some fake assurance or constituting of any committee this time as the government had lost its credibility through its fake promises since 2008.
Recently, he said, the YDA had called off its strike on government’s assurance to resolve the issue of service structure within one month and formed a committee headed by Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa, Rana Sanaullah Khan, Khawaja Salman Rafiq, secretaries of Law, Health and Finance departments, three members of YDA, Punjab and one member each from Medical Teachers Association and Pakistan Medical Association, which prepared a proposal of a comprehensive service structure for doctors and failed to issue the notification for final implementation.
“The seriousness of the government can be gauged from the fact that none of the politicians attended a single meeting of the committee,” he informed. “The government will be responsible for patients’ sufferings or any untoward incident occurring in the hospitals,” he said, urging the government to immediately issue notification of service structure for doctors in the province. The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has also played the role of a “silent spectator” as it weighs its options in the new healthcare crisis brewing up in the province. Besides, the Young Doctors Association (YDA), Pakistan, the pioneer faction of the association, has also backed the stance of the Punjab faction of YDA and supported the outdoor strike for service structure.
The YDA, Pakistan, General Secretary Dr Salman Kazmi expressed grave concern over the massive brain drain of doctors as Ireland, Oman and Saudi Arabia were hiring the doctors against lucrative packages which he termed, was bad omen for the health system of the province. “The government must retain the doctors by offering them job security, pay packages and service structure instead of wasting the resources on unimportant projects,” he said, adding that the establishment of new hospitals (as reflected in the health budget) would be useless if the doctors continued going abroad.
The Punjab government has failed to take any preemptive action to stop the outdoor strike either by taking the protesting doctors to task or fulfill their demands by awarding service structure, as according to YDA, Punjab leadership, none of the government or health department official approached them to resolve the matter amicably.
Despite repeated attempts, Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Health Khawaja Salman Rafiq was not available for his comments on the issue.