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July 11, 2019

Police thwart nurses’ bid to march on Governor House


July 11, 2019

The anti-riot police on Wednesday briefly detained at least 14 nurses after a large number of protesting health care workers, who had boycotted even the emergency departments of Sindh’s public hospitals, tried to march on the Governor House, where Prime Minister Imran Khan was meeting traders and provincial officials.

“We detained a few of the male and female nurses after they tried to march on the Governor House, but they were later released without any charge,” said senior police official Kanwar Asif.

He said that the police exercised restraint and did not use force to prevent the protesting health care workers from creating a law and order situation in the red zone. Representatives of the protesting nurses also confirmed the detention of 14 of their colleagues by the police and their later release from different police stations.

They said they wanted to gather in front of the Governor House to apprise the PM of their genuine issues that were not being resolved by the Sindh government. The health of Aijaz Kaleri, a leader of the protesting nurses, deteriorated when the police dragged him off to try to take him to a police station for “inciting others to lawlessness”.

Kaleri said: “Today we boycotted even the emergencies of the public hospitals all over the province in protest against non-acceptance of our demands, which include promotions, payment of health professional allowance and other monetary benefits.”

The nurses decided to march on the Governor House after a delegation of the Sindh Health Department led by the special and additional secretaries of health tried to persuade them to call off their protest and give the health authorities at least 15 days to resolve their issues.

Patients, meanwhile, continued to suffer after the protesting nurses boycotted the emergency services at public hospitals across the province, said health officials, adding that patients had been suffering since July 4 due to the boycott of the nurses.

Young doctors including house officers and postgraduate students have been requested to help their seniors dispense medicines to patients in the wards, assist surgeons in operation theatres (OTs) and help critically sick patients in intensive care units of the city’s major public hospitals as the nurses continue to boycott their responsibilities to try to pressurise the authorities into accepting their demands.

Karachi’s major public hospitals, including the National Institute of Child Health, the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and the Civil Hospital Karachi, are admitting very few patients, while dozens of surgeries have been postponed or cancelled due to the boycott of the nursing staff.

Four leaders of the nurses, namely Kaleri, Ghulam Dastagir, Heeralal and Atta Hussain, have also started a hunger strike at their protest camp outside the press club, saying that they would “starve themselves to death” if their demands are not met by the health department, warning that more nurses will join them.

According to an earlier agreement, the nurses were supposed to be promoted in accordance with a four-tier formula, they were to be paid health professional allowance and several other demands were also to be met by the provincial government within a fortnight of the agreement.

Health Secretary Saeed Awan has said they are ready to accept the genuine demands of the medical and paramedical staff and the nurses, adding that they are going to resubmit a summary to the chief minister for the nurses’ promotions and for resolving their financial issues.

“We had forwarded a summary to the finance department but it was turned down by the CM on the observations made by the finance department. We are now going to resubmit the summary to the CM,” Awan said, advising the protesters to call off their strike in the interest of the patients.

Officials at the three major hospitals of the city said health services have been badly affected, as patients cannot be attended to properly and many serious patients have to be referred to charity or private hospitals for treatment and medical care.

They said they have urged the house officers, postgraduate students and even medical students to assist the doctors in taking care of the patients in the wards, while doctors are assisting surgeons in the OTs.

“It is becoming immensely difficult for us to run the wards and manage the patients without the help and assistance of the nursing staff, but we have sought the cooperation of house officers and postgraduate medical students to do the job of the nurses. We have also requested house officers to increase their working hours and also do nights to help save lives,” said the incharge of a medicine ward at the Civil Hospital.