Monday February 26, 2024

PIMS protest ends with govt softening its stance

February 23, 2019

Islamabad: The government will not impose any modification in the administrative structure of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) without the consent and involvement of its employees, particularly with regard to the draft proposal being developed for the creation of a Board of Governors (BoG) to run the hospital’s affairs.

An assurance to this effect by none other than Minister for Health Aamir Mehmood Kiani forced the All Employees PIMS Restoration Movement (AEPRM) here Friday to terminate their ongoing week-long strike against the government’s decision to place PIMS under the administrative control of a BoG. What started as a two-hour token strike on February 16 turned into a full-fledged protest on February 22, with the OPD remaining closed all day.

Addressing the protesters outside the hospital’s Administration Block, Kiani also announced immediate withdrawal of the show cause and suspension notices issued to three PIMS employees a day earlier, merely because they had raised slogans against the government’s decision and had highlighted instances of corruption in PIMS when the Minister and Secretary Health were in the hospital for parleys with the protestors.

“PIMS will continue to remain in Schedule III. You will have the paper and the pen; we will only approve the law that is framed with your consent and involvement. The committee working on the draft proposal for the creation of a BoG will have five members from PIMS,” Kiani announced in the presence of jubilant protestors. He assured that while the reservations of the protesters would be duly examined, reforms for patient care will nevertheless be introduced in line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision to uplift the poorest segment of the population.

Kiani said, the provision of improved healthcare facilities is central to the government’s singular focus on improving the lives of the 50% people who have been living in deprivation below the poverty line for the last 70 years. “Patient care can only improve if doctors have an enabling environment to perform. It is my responsibility to protect your rights. The budget of PIMS will be increased; all shortcomings will be overcome; and the hospital will become the best medical facility of its kind in Pakistan,” he stated.

Kiani attributed the strike to a misunderstanding. “An impression had been created to the effect that the government has finalized its decision to appoint a BoG at PIMS. In reality, no such approval has been granted. We are merely working on the draft proposal, which will be finalized with your involvement, and implemented with your consent. You will be involved in every stage of the preparation of the draft document,” he assured the protesters.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of PIMS Dr. Raja Amjad Mehmood is said to have felt insulted by the government’s instructions to withdraw the show cause and suspension notices issued to three employees of PIMS a day earlier. Dr. Amjad was nowhere around when Kiani was addressing the protesters. A strong rumour about the ED having submitted his resignation was also circulating. However, talking to this scribe when asked whether he had resigned, Dr. Amjad said, “Do I look mad?” He also clarified that he was absent when the Minister addressed the protesters because he was then attending the Standing Committee meeting. Dr. Amjad is also reportedly unhappy about Kiani’s decision to spend an hour at PIMS every day.

Speaking on the occasion, AEPRM’s spokesman Dr. Asfandyar Khan said, “The Minister has assured us that the status of PIMS and the civil servant status of its employees will remain intact; that no ordinance will be introduced in haste; and that our suggestions for hospital reforms will be incorporated in the draft proposal for a BoG. As such, we announce an end to our strike.”

The Chairman of AEPRM Sharif Khattak added, “We are confident that the government will honour its commitment and will not resort to any measure running contrary to the interests of PIMS employees. However, we reserve the right to protest in case of any deviation. Even the slightest hint of our interests being compromised, or of revengeful tactics being adopted against us will compel us to resume our strike, and the responsibility for such action will lie squarely on the hospital administration.”

In the end, the AEPRM specially thanked the print and electronic media for highlighting the grievances of the patients and employees of PIMS.