Following a Lahore High Court ruling on Saturday the Young Doctors Association (YDA) has called off their strike that began in the middle of last month. The High Court had already ordered the immediate manning of emergency centres, and the young doctors had complied. The strike has seen growing acrimony between the YDA and the Punjab government with arrests made and police action taken against doctors. While calling off the strike, the doctors have demanded that their colleagues who are still under arrest be released and the FIRs against them dropped. The development means patients will at last receive the much needed relief. They have suffered the most because of the strike as doctors and officialdom have battled over the matter of better pay structures and other facilities for the doctors. The concern of the sick was only that they receive the medical attention they require, and this had been denied for far too long. It comes as good news that they are going to get it now. However, the YDA has issued a warning to the government that while the doctors respect the orders of the LHC, the Punjab government must also honour the court’s verdict by coming up with an acceptable package for the doctors within the two-week period laid down for this. So we can expect more trouble and resumed suffering for hospital patients. This is not something to look forward to, given the scenes we have seen in public hospitals in Punjab over the past few weeks.
A solution has to be worked out whereby the doctors’ legitimate demands are met, or at least a process started for an ultimate solution to the problems which led to the strike in the first place. Highhanded tactics seen in hospitals during the strike, such as the strikers’ harassment of doctors attending to patients, are unacceptable, but so is an attitude of dismissing the doctors’ demands out of hand. We must bear in mind that Pakistan loses too many professionals, especially doctors, to other countries. Young doctors who carry out most of the work at hospitals are underpaid. The authorities need to take measures to change the situation and keep our doctors at home. There are too few doctors and paramedics operating at present, to say nothing of medical experts, in proportion to the size of our population. The doctors should be fairly treated, and not given the cause to abandon their patients again. Besides, there has been incalculable expenditure on the doctors’ education, and therefore it should be Pakistan which reaps the benefit of their expensive training, not other countries.