The Sindh government has raised the pay and allowances of doctors to end growing unrest among them over low salaries — an issue that has triggered off protests in Punjab and Balochistan.
Addressing a press conference at the CM House on Saturday, Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah announced that the pay of doctors doing house job had been increased from Rs12,000 to Rs18,000, and the pay of post-graduate doctors would be increased from Rs12,000 to Rs22,000.
According to the announcement, the non-practising allowance for doctors of 17 and 18 grades has been raised from Rs400 to Rs4,000 while this allowance has been raised from Rs700 to Rs6,000 for doctors of 19 and 20 grades.
Doctors performing their duty at casualty or emergency would get Rs6,000 as hardworking allowance. Doctors (17 and 18 grades) willing to work in rural and remote areas would get Rs6,000 as rural allowance while 19-grade doctors would get an allowance of Rs8,000.
The increases in pay and allowances for doctors would cost the provincial government up to Rs2.9 billion, said the chief minister.
He also announced that if Punjab or any other province increased the pay and allowances of doctors, Sindh would follow suit. The government would also give all incentives and whatever the doctors wanted, he said.
Shah said now the government expected the doctors to deliver, especially in remote areas. The medical profession was important and doctors deserved a better deal, he added.
He urged that instead of going abroad, doctors should stay in the country, where they were especially needed in rural areas. He stated that people in rural areas were suffering from many diseases, especially hepatitis, and poor people tended to sell their lands and animals to come to urban centres for the treatment of their ailments.
He urged doctors to visit rural areas and come up to the expectations of the people.
Answering a question, the chief minister said health and education would be a top priority of the government in the next budget. He said that owing to the devastation caused by floods last year, the government was compelled to cut the Annual Development Programme by up to 33 percent. He added that this loss would be compensated in the next fiscal year’s budget.
Regarding the repair of the Indus River embankments damaged by the floods, the provincial chief executive said the repair work was being carried out effectively, and hoped that up to 80 percent of work would be completed by the end of June.
Speaking about Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, the chief minister said that the home minister was still on leave.
Answering a question about the funding of devolved departments/divisions, he said the Centre had given funds for the devolved departments for one year, but now it had refused to provide funding for the same except universities. He noted hat talks with the federal government were going on to get assets of the devolved departments.
Finance Minister Murad Ali Shah, who also was present on the occasion, said it had been agreed that if Punjab increased the salaries of doctors in its forthcoming budget, Sindh would also incorporate such an increase after getting approval from the cabinet. He said the government was taking concerted efforts to improve conditions at district hospitals.
The finance minister appreciated cooperation from the PMA and doctors who demonstrated their confidence in a committee formed by the government.
Health Minister Dr Sagheer Ahmed recalled that the young doctors’ pay had been increased from Rs6,000 to Rs12,000 in the year 2009, which had now been increased further.
He disclosed that it had been agreed that the government would approach the CPSP (College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan) to include the practice of doctors at district hospitals in their post-graduation. He also suggested that now it was time to determine the post-graduation policy for doctors.
Ahmed expressed his regret over the increasing trend of hooliganism at emergency wards, which, he said, created problems for doctors.
Replying to a question about the less- than-expected release of the development budget for the Health Department, the health minister said that over Rs6 billion was the ADP of the Health Department in the outgoing financial year, out of which the department had so far got only Rs3 billion.
As a result, he said, uplift schemes were adversely affected. However, the he said that the chief minister had promised to compensate it in the next budget as three departments — roads, health and education — would be given a priority in the development budget.