Thousands of patients, including women and children, had to undergo immense hardships as the doctors and paramedical staff of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) and the National Institute of Child Health (NICH) boycotted duties at OPDs (out-patient departments) and OTs (operation theaters) against the proposed devolution of the two federal hospitals to the provincial government.
The doctors and paramedical staff of both the federally-run health facilities resorted to strike on the call of Joint Action Committee (JAC) that is protesting against the transfer of administrative control of the two hospitals to the Sindh government under the 18th Amendment.
The patients who had come to JPMC and the children brought to NICH for treatment had to visit private hospitals and other public hospitals in the city after they learnt that the doctors and paramedical staff of both the health facilities were on strike to press the government to accept their demands.
However, the members of JAC and Young Doctors Association (YDA), Sindh, exchanged hot words after the YDA members, who were also boycotting OPDs, tried to attend some patients outside the JPMC at their protest camp.
The brawl took place between the doctors and paramedical staff after JAC members of JPMC stopped the young doctors from attending the patients outside the health facility and sending them to JPMC Emergency Ward.
Hundreds of children brought to NICH with gastric ailments and other problems had to return without treatment after the doctors refused to see patients at the OPDs and only serious patients brought to the emergency were provided necessary treatment.
The JAC of doctors and paramedics of JPMC and NICH announced to continue their strike on Tuesday, saying, they would continue their protest unless they get a clear message from the authorities concerned that their hospitals would not be handed over to the provincial government.
Dr Salman of JPMC, who represents JAC, told The News that they were protesting for the last two weeks against the proposed devolution of JPMC and NICH under the 18th Amendment but nobody paid any heed to their demands and they were left with no option but to resort to complete strike.
“I admit that the patients had to suffer difficulties as doctors were not willing to attend them accept for emergency but we had no other option left except to resort to complete strike that led to closure of OPDs,” he said, adding that the doctors and paramedics also postponed elective surgeries.
“Only the emergencies in JPMC and NICH remained functional as we didn’t want anybody to lose his/her life due to our strike,” Dr. Salman added.
He rejected the impression that that they happen to be the B-team of the JPMC and NICH administrations, saying that their protest compelled the newly inducted Health Minister Riaz Pirzada to approach JAC and extend assurance that the government would look into their demands.
“The newly appointed Health Minister Riaz Pirzada called us and told that the devolution issue of both the federal hospitals of Karachi would be taken up at the Wednesday meeting of Implementation Commission of 18th Amendment,” he informed.
On the other hand, the YDA Sindh also boycotted the OPDs and operation theaters in protest against the non-fulfillment of their demands regarding increase in salaries and benefits by the provincial government.
The YDA had announced to boycott OPDs and OTs at health facilities across the province from Wednesday but they started their protest earlier after observing “cold response” from Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah towards their issues.
The young doctors, however, tried to attend some patients outside the JPMC at their protest camp as per their policy but they had to face opposition from JAC members who said it was a complete boycott and they had advised patients not to visit JPMC and NICH on Monday.