Many patients from Karachi, other cities in Sindh as well as from Balochistan were denied OPD services, elective surgeries and medical investigations on Thursday after paramedics caused disturbance at the Civil Hospital Karachi, the Lyari General Hospital and the Sindh Services Hospital to demand health professional allowance.
A day earlier police had used tear gas, water cannons and batons to disperse the protesting paramedics when they had tried to march on the Chief Minister’s House to present their demands, while dozens of demonstrators were detained, but they were released the next morning.
Paramedics from public health care facilities across Sindh are demanding health professional allowance and restoration of the 2006 service structure. They had staged a sit-in at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday and later tried to march on the CM’s House, but police used force to thwart their attempt.
The Civil Hospital’s administration censured the paramedics for their hooliganism and rowdy behaviour, saying they prevented doctors and nurses from carrying out their duties, because of which many patients had to turn to private hospitals.
According to some reports, sanitary workers trying to carry out their responsibilities were beaten up by the protesting paramedics, while attendants of patients in various wards had to purchase medicines and medical supplies from the market, as the paramedics had closed the hospitals’ stores.
On Thursday morning paramedics returned to the press club for another sit-in, during which they vowed to continue protesting and boycotting health care at hospitals until their demands were met, FIRs against their leaders were withdrawn and they were treated the same as employees of some bigger hospitals.
Sindh minister Javed Nagori tried to persuade them to call off their strike in the interest of patients, but the paramedics told him that they would continue protesting until they were provided with a health professional allowance and the 2006 service structure was restored.
“The minister has assured us of conveying our demands to the provincial high-ups, but we have made it clear that the strike at hospitals would continue until our demands are met,” said Qayyum Marwat, leader of the protesting paramedics.
Summary sent to CM
Health department officials claim they have moved a summary to the CM’s House for paying health professional allowance to paramedics across the province. They hope the summary would be approved by the chief executive after seeking advice from the finance department.
They said the health department has conveyed this development to the paramedics and urged them to resume their duties instead of causing trouble and inconvenience to patients, adding that they would continue to advise the protesters against adopting an illegal course for having their demands met.
“Although police arrested the protesters who disrupted law and order in the Red Zone and pelted police with stones, all of them were released without any legal action, which should be seen as the government’s goodwill gesture,” said a senior health official.