YOUNG doctors did not care about the Punjab government’s move to invoke the Essential Services Act of 1958 and poor patients, as they observed a strike and boycotted duties at the Outdoor Patient Departments (OPDs) of public hospitals on the 12th consecutive day on Friday.
The Punjab government on Thursday night had invoked the Essential Services Act of 1958 initially for a period of one month in a bid to ensure uninterrupted healthcare for the patients.
However the young doctors blatantly ignoring the warning continued their protest and boycott and denied healthcare facilities to poor patients on Friday.
On an average around 35,000 patients visit OPDs at public hospitals across the province, including around 15,000 in public hospitals of the provincial metropolis alone.
The ongoing strike by doctors is being widely criticised by the general public who argue that the young doctors instead of denying healthcare facilities by observing a boycott at OPDS should protest after duty hours. The stakeholders are also critical of the private practice by doctors, including young doctors, saying it is unfortunate that the people at public hospitals are being denied treatment while the same doctors are performing duties at private clinics and hospitals.
There is also a serious concern over senior doctors, as many stakeholders believe that senior doctors are taking full advantage of the situation and are not performing duties at OPDs as well. “Do OPDs have only young doctors?” questioned a citizen Tanvir while saying that the government should also take notice of this aspect.
It is pertinent to mention here that under the Essential Services Act, the head of any institute may recommend dismissal from service a doctor or an employee for violating the act besides prosecution may also be initiated against him/her which may result in a one-year jail term if violation is proved.
The young doctors on Friday also took out a protest rally at the Mayo Hospital in connection with their demands which included service structure, including raise in salaries and regular promotions.
The Punjab government claims that a grade-17 government officer is getting Rs 30,000 whereas a medical officer is getting up to Rs 60,000 salary per month. Therefore, the government has been terming the demand unjustified.
However, the YDA representatives during the protest rally at the Mayo Hospital on Friday showed the pay slips of grade-17 doctors to media and claimed that the salary of a grade-17 doctor was Rs 42, 000 to Rs 44,000 per month with all allowances, which was contrary to the claims of the Punjab government.
Meanwhile, the YDA office-bearers, including Dr Rana Sohail, Dr Salman Kazmi, Dr Talha Sherwani, Dr Ghulam Qasim, Dr Murtaza Bloch, and others said that the government was totally being misled by the bureaucracy, and bureaucrats were trying to start a confrontation between the Punjab government and doctors.
They demanded the Chief Minister of Punjab take personal interest in the matter and ask senior ministers in the Punjab cabinet committee to negotiate with doctors and accept their just demands.
Meanwhile in a related development, it is learnt that around 400 new doctors, recently recruited through the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC), have been posted by the Health Department Punjab at various hospitals and they would join duties from Saturday (today).
It is learnt 500 more doctors would be inducted into the public healthcare system on ad hoc basis soon to ensure uninterrupted healthcare facilities to patients in the wake of young doctors’ strike at OPDs.
There are reports that the Punjab government may also impose Section 144 at public hospitals across the province in a bid to stop young doctors’ attempt to disrupt the healthcare system at hospitals.
However, Advisor to Chief Minister Punjab Khawaja Salman Rafiq denied the same by saying that no decision was made in this regard so far. He said the government still wanted that the issue was resolved in an amicable manner.