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September 14, 2017



IHC moved against long working hours imposed on doctors at govt hospitals


Islamabad :A petitioner Dr Nafeesa Hiba has approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) seeking remedy against lengthy working hours being imposed on doctors throughout the country not only deteriorating their health, performance and in case of negligence doctors are blamed by everyone.

Petitioner said that resident doctors are working 102 hours a week that is beyond human capacity when every alternate day they are made to work a continuous 30 hours. In India, doctors work 48 hours a week while in west the working hours are even less than that.

With that, doctors work in unhygienic conditions where no proper food or safe drinking water is provided. And these are the main reasons for the brain drain and many lady doctors quit this profession due to unbearable workload.

Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb of the IHC will hear this petition today (Thursday). Petitioner through her counsel Saimul Haq Satti has cited federation of Pakistan through minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC), secretary NHSRC, Chief Secretaries Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, President College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP), Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) and Advocate General Islamabad as respondents.

Petitioner adopted that she is a qualified MBBS doctor by profession. That the community of doctors are forced to perform their duties for about 102-hours per week without holidays as Post Graduates Trainees, House Officers & Medical Officers in Tertiary care Hospitals.

Through this overburdening or overloading of work assigned to the doctors not only the medical professionals are suffering but people-at-large jeopardizing well-being of the doctors and health care of the patients as well. Current schedule of work is unregulated where doctors are forced to perform through very lengthy working hours.

Petitioner said that the resident doctors are working more than 102 hours per week that causes a trauma/stress to the medical professionals who get very serious diseases like insomnia as they are not even getting time/place for proper siesta, unable to join families’ get together or socialization which is the violation of the fundamental human rights.

Further the petitioner’s community forced to perform their duties in highly unhygienic condition like good food, proper sanitised potable water to drink. These are the reasons that more and more doctors leaving the country and opting to work abroad.

According to the petitioner, her community of doctors suffering worst forms of slavery illegally, unlawfully and in violation of all canon of justice and fair play to perform their duties under the following working schedule with no incentives, with no additional pay that render the petitioner’s community handicapped with the passage of time in all terms.

Petitioner raised few questions before the court; first that whether medical professional, dealing human life, require extensive training, study and mastery dealing of the subject in order to treat, diagnose and prescribe patients can come under the definition of 'workmen' in order to make them entitled to the benefits under the Industrial laws? If ‘Not’ why, and If ‘Yes’ then what judiciously ought to be 'the maximum permissible duty / working schedule limit' for such medical professionals working in tertiary care hospitals of the government?

Secondly, petitioner raised a question that a doctor working under huge stress, if any medical negligence occurs who shall be the responsible? Whether it is Head of the Department, Medical superintendent/Directors, Vice Chancellors of medical universities, Post Graduates Trainee or a House officer?

Petitioner also contended that due to the said working conditions errors and negligence’s occurs that endanger lives of the patients. This also create a mistrust and misperception about the doctors when a patient comes with an urgent need of medical assistance and the doctor due to over work and exhaustion cannot treat him well. This creates an impression that the doctor wilfully neglected him, whereas patient hardly knows doctor’s real condition and start manhandling with duty doctors. In fact, over working/ very lengthy working schedule leads to deterioration of performance and is harmful for both ‘the patient’ and ‘the caregiver’?

Making only the doctors’ community to work more than 102 hours per week is in violation of the fundamental right of equal opportunity in public employment provided under Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Petitioner quoted a study according to which residents who work more than 24 hours are 73% more prone to needle-stick injuries perform at the 7th percentile of rested performance and are 2.3 times more likely to have car accidents. Twenty four hours without sleep slows reaction time similar to alcohol intoxication. Interns working traditional call schedules are 36% more likely to make serious medical errors and 6 times more likely to make diagnostic errors than those working 16 hours shifts. Hence, current unregulated work schedules in Pakistan not only endanger the safety of healthcare professionals but also of the patients they care for.

In developed countries trend is set to restrict work hours over the week so that adverse effects of working overtime are minimized. In India the permissible working hours for doctors are 48 hours per week while in western countries working hours are even less than that.

Petitioner has prayed to the court that the governments, medical institutions and universities under command, control or management of the respondents be required, directed and ordered to amend their unlawful rules and regulations or working schedules of doctors.