PESHAWAR: The medical professionals of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are concerned about the unilateral notification declaring all services in the Health Department as essential thereby barring them from going on strike for their rights.
The community has formed a coordination council comprising representatives of all the cadres such as doctors’ associations affiliated with the political parties as well as nursing, paramedics and Class-IV associations. “The council will take all the community along and fight against the discriminatory notification,” said Dr Abdul Qadir, who has been nominated as chairman of the council.
Dr Shah Sawar, former president of the Provincial Doctors Association (PDA), was nominated as co-chairman and Dr Nasir Afridi as patron-in-chief. “The notification is discriminatory and in violation of basic human rights as it deprives the medical community of a right enshrined in the Constitution,” Dr Qadir said, adding that they would take all legal steps to undo the notification.
The Health Department, through a notification, declared that, “all the services rendered by all the staff in any health institution including administrative, curative, rehabilitative, preventive, promotive and supportive services, partially or fully funded from the general exchequer and are under direct or indirect control of government, shall be deemed as essential services for the purpose of the West Pakistan Essential Services (Amendments) Act 1958 with immediate effect.”
The government acted upon a decision of the Peshawar High Court back in 2010, in which the court directed the government that the “services of medical professionals such as doctors, paramedics, nursing staff and other employees of the government hospitals shall be declared essential services and necessary amendment be made in the West Pakistan Essential Services (Amendments) Act, 1958 or the government may by notification to be published in official gazette.”
The court further stated in its decision that, “this would curb and suppress the detestable activities of the pressure groups, politically motivated and undesirable strikes in these institutions causing serious inconvenience to patients.”
Dr Qadir said the notification pertains to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as other provinces do not have such laws. He stated that none of the stakeholder was heard in the court. “When the government was declaring health as essential service, it should provide the health staff equal amenities, facilities and resources,” he argued.
Dr Sanaullah Jan, president of the ANP-affiliated Malgari Doctoran stated that the decision was doomed to fail as the stakeholders had not been taken into confidence and a unilateral “dictatorial” decision was taken. “We expect all the groups of the community to rise above political considerations and support this fundamental cause,” he added.
Prof Dr Nisar, president of the People’s Doctors Forum (PDF), termed it a draconian law and contradictory to the ideology of Pakistan People’s Party. “It will be a black spot in the history of PDF if an undemocratic and authoritarian law was implemented by the PPP government,” he said.
He said the PDF would soon call on the health minister and apprise him of the concerns of the community. He extended support to the body formed against the decision. Dr Umar Ayub, president of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), said they had no objection to health being declared an essential service. However, he said the employees should be provided the emoluments and facilities being given to the armed forces and police.
Farrukh Jalil, president of the Peshawar Nurses Association, said the decision wasn’t acceptable to the nursing community. He said the government did not take the stakeholders on board and should immediately withdraw the notification.
When contacted, Dr Noorul Eman, special secretary health, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said the decision was taken as per the decision of the high court. “We acted on the high court directive to make the health services essential,” he stated.
A doctor wishing not to be named said it was quite surprising that the high court decision came in 2010, but the political wings of doctors and trade union activists of doctors, nurses and paramedics remained indifferent to the decision and neither filed review petition nor challenged the decision in the superior courts.