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October 4, 2019

Doctors’ strike: Health services paralysed at all KP hospitals

National

October 4, 2019

PESHAWAR: The doctors, paramedics, nursing staff and non-technical staff of the public sector hospitals in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa continued protest for the sixth consecutive day on Thursday, paralysing health services in all the government-run hospitals across the province.

The government is not seen in sight and has literally left the patients at the mercy of protesting health workers since Friday last. The doctors and all other health workers started strike and suspended health services after the police took action against the protesting health workers by using baton charged and teargas shells to disperse them in the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH). They had gathered in LRH to protest against the recently adopted Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Regional and District Health Authorities Act 2019. And since then, all the state-run health facilities are closed across the province. It caused acute hardships to patients as the only emergency services are being offered to patients brought there.

Representatives of Grand Health Alliance, a conglomeration of all associations of doctors, paramedics, nursing staff and non-technical staff called Class-IV employees of the public sector hospitals, vowed to continue the protest till all their fellow colleagues were freed and cases against them withdrawn.

Since September 27, the doctors have withdrawn services to the outpatient departments (OPDs), operation theaters, pathology and radiology departments of the hospitals. Most of the doctors said they were willing to attend OPDs but were unable to do so as they were feeling insecure from the protesting colleagues, particularly paramedics and no-technical staff. "I don't understand where is the government and why doesn't it take note of patients' suffering," a senior physician in Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) posed a question.

Pleading anonymity, he said the previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government faced more serious crisis during its tenure when the MTI Act was implemented but it never used force against the doctors.

"Their health minister Shahram Tarakai was not a doctor but was more decent and possessed skills to work with the doctor community," recalled the physician.

He said despite critical situation when hospitals were closed by the protesting doctors, Shahram Tarakai never lost temper and instead used backdoor channels to divide different factions of the doctors. The government had given autonomy to seven hospitals in KP by declaring them Medical Teaching Institutions (MTI) run by the board of governors (BoGs), but interestingly none of the board chairmen and their members bothered to take note why their respective institutions have been closed for the past one week.

The government had directed the hospital authorities to send them lists of the absentee doctors so it can initiate disciplinary action against them. However, no action has been taken against any doctor so far. Citing the strike, most of the doctors, and particularly surgeons, stopped going to the hospitals. Most of them can be seen going to the private surgical centers and performing surgeries at a time where they are supposed to be present in their respective workplaces.