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October 17, 2019

Patients suffer in Punjab as medics continue strike for seventh day

Top Story

October 17, 2019

LAHORE: The young doctors and medical staff’s strike in Out-Patients Department (OPDs) in public sector hospitals across Punjab entered seventh day on Wednesday against what they called privatisation of hospitals under the Punjab Medical Teaching Institutions (Reforms) Ordinance 2019.

On the call of Grand Health Alliance (GHA), the young doctors, young consultants, nurses, paramedical staff, allied health professionals and all healthcare associations boycotted their duties to perform elective services including outdoor, operation theatres, radiological and pathological services in mega teaching institutions including Mayo Hospital, Services, Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Lahore General Hospital, Jinnah Hospital, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Shaikh Zayed Hospital, Punjab Institute of Cardiology in Lahore as well as other districts across the province.

The miseries of the poor patients are multiplying due to lack of healthcare services in outdoor wards and OTs in hospitals of Punjab. The emergency wards of government hospitals are catering to unprecedented number of patients, yet several patients have to bear extra financial burden to seek treatment at private hospitals. According to YDA’s senior leadership, more than 50,000 elective surgeries and over 100,000 diagnostic tests were postponed due to closure of Operation Theatres (OTs) and central laboratories respectively in all mega teaching hospitals in the province.

However, the health authorities and administrations of respective hospitals are making hollow claims of providing health services at OPDs with the help of consultants and administrative doctors. In fact, the absence of OPD services prevented thousands of new admissions in indoor wards in hospitals during the strike for the last 7 days.

However, it is learnt that Punjab government has directed hospital administrations to prepare lists of ‘miscreant’ doctors, nurses and paramedical staff, who were creating hurdles in the way of smooth delivery of healthcare services in hospitals of Lahore and other districts in Punjab. In this regard, Director General of Nursing has written a letter to Nursing Superintendents of mega teaching hospitals to send lists of nurses, who boycotted their services, to the Directorate with recommendation to initiate disciplinary action against them.

The associations of young consultants, young doctors, nurses, paramedical staff and allied health professionals organised protest demonstrations and rallies in their respective hospitals. The young doctors, nurses and paramedics of Lahore General Hospital took out a grand rally on Ferozepur Road, which threw traffic out of gear and caused immense problems for the commuters.

They termed the legislation against the interests of both the healthcare providers and the patients. “It is beyond comprehension why the government is bent upon bringing the system that has already failed in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” they added. They vehemently rejected the privatisation of public sector hospitals through draconian laws such as MTI (Reforms) Act 2019 and Regional Health Authorities Act.

While speaking at a large gathering of young doctors and medical staff outside OPD ward of Mayo Hospital on Wednesday, GHA Chairman and YDA Punjab General Secretary Dr Salman Haseeb Chaudhry held Punjab’s Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid responsible for the inconvenience caused to the patients. He announced holding a long march towards Punjab Assembly and holding of protest and sit-in on the occasion of next session.

As the status quo prevailed, the GHA announced continuing OPDs strike and warned the government of extending strike to indoor wards if MTI (Reforms) Act 2019 was not withdrawn. “The GHA will resist any victimisation of protesters,” he added.

It is worth mentioning that while the government continues to propagate “all is well” in hospitals without considering the hardships to the poor patients, no efforts were made to engage the Grand Health Alliance to bring all the stakeholders on the table to negotiate a mutually agreed way out to resolve this issue.

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