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August 23, 2016

Separation of PIMS from medical university


August 23, 2016

Patients suffer as govt delays action


Patient services including routine surgeries at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) remained suspended for a good three hours on Monday morning when, responding to the protest call of the PIMS Restoration Movement (PRM), the hospital’s medical fraternity and support staff abstained from duties to reinforce their demand for separation of PIMS from the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University (SZABMU).

The hospital’s administration responded to the protest with an iron hand, galvanising the police and its own security personnel “to pre-empt an ugly situation and to manoeuvre resumption of services in the Outpatient Department,” as stated by the Vice Chancellor of SZABMU Prof. Dr. Javed Akram. It may be recalled that on August 15, PRM had given a one-week deadline for the government to expedite the separation of PIMS from SZABMU.

According to Prof. Dr. Javed Akram, “It took a huge effort to normalise the situation. Patient registration could not be managed, but the laboratory and pharmacy were functionalised. As many as 4,000 patients were examined in the hospital’s main OPD, and another 2,200 in the Children’s OPD. Services at the gynaecology department remained unaffected.” On the contrary, PRM’s Chairman Dr. Asfandyar Khan contested the VC’s claim. “Ours was a peaceful protest but the hospital administration, along with its private security staff, created unrest by threatening the protesters of dire consequences. The situation worsened when the VC grabbed the security supervisor of PIMS Malik Safdar Khalid by the collar, and dragged him out. A scene was created when over 300 policemen were beckoned without any provocation by the peaceful protestors. The patients felt so harassed that they immediately left the hospital premises without seeking treatment even from the emergency department, which was fully functional.”

Condemning the “unwarranted provocation by the hospital administration,” the PRM leadership announced continuation of the peaceful protest till separation of PIMS from the university. “The administration cannot scare us or detract our peaceful movement,” they maintained.

When confronted, Dr. Javed Akram conceded having gotten furious at the security staff. “I even shouted at them for allowing closure of the OPD and for sending patients away,” he maintained. Talking to this scribe, the VC claimed having met the protesters a night earlier, leaving them with the assurance that patient services would remain unaffected during the protest. “Unfortunately, at 7.30 a.m., a mob consisting of union representatives came to the OPD, locked all rooms, and took the staff with them. At that point, I was left with no option but to call the police, calm down the doctors, and eventually reopen the OPD,” he stated.

Dr. Asfandyar dismissed the claims of the VC and alleged that he is already threatening members of PRM with dire consequences (including suspension and termination of their services) if the protest continues. “Such tactics will only strengthen our resolve. If the university administration continues with its policy of harassment, the situation will only aggravate and the administration alone will be responsible for the outcome,” he said.

Referring to the contentious issue of separation of PIMS from SZABMU, Dr. Javed Akram said, “I am all for it. Even the government wants this to happen, but due processes will have to be followed. The Senate Standing Committee has allocated 25 acres of land on the I J Principal Road for construction of SZABMU. Once the infrastructure is in place, and we get a nod from HEC and PMDC, the university will automatically be separated from PIMS, which will become an affiliated hospital of the university.” He also guaranteed protection of the civil servant rights of PIMS employees, as enshrined in the Act.

The president of the Officers Union Syed Zameer Naqvi maintained, “Even though we are civil servants as enshrined in the Act, we are progressively being deprived of our rights, privileges and entitlements, and today, not a single government organisation is willing to accept our status as civil servants.

We have raised our voice at every forum but no earnest effort has been made for passage of the Amendment Bill. We therefore felt constrained to protest.” Several professors also spoke, voicing their resolve to stand united for the cause.

A ‘Save PIMS Rally’ was also part of the protest. During their march from the administration department to the university gate, the protestors raised slogans in favour of separation of PIMS from SZABMU.

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