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October 17, 2019

Doctors, paramedics strike continues


October 17, 2019

PESHAWAR: The doctors along with other health workers continued to protest for 20th day on Wednesday, suspending all health services, except emergency, in the public sector hospitals of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The health workers, including doctors, paramedics, nursing staff and non-technical employees have been on strike since September 27.

They are protesting against the Regional Health Authority (RHA) and District Health Authority (DHA, which the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly had passed recently.

The provincial government and particularly Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and Health Minister Dr Hisham Inamullah Khan had paid little attention towards the suffering of the patients, triggering longest-ever strike of the doctors in the province.

Senior Health Department officials told The News that the chief minister had convened a secret meeting of representatives of the doctors’ associations, paramedics and nursing staff two days ago but could not convince the protesting health workers to call off their strike.

“The two sides listened to each other carefully and some of the doctors offered to call off strike and even allow the government to reduce their salaries if it proved to them there was anything for the patient care in the RHA or DHA,” said an official privy to the meeting between the chief minister and doctors.

Pleading anonymity, he said the chief minister assured them of all his support and addressing their genuine concerns if they called off the ongoing strike in the hospitals.

One of the doctors present at the meeting told The News that they went with an open mind and were willing to end the strike if the chief minister accepted half of their demands.

“We challenged the chief minister to read the RHA and DHA Act and let us know if there was a single word for patient care. We told him the prime objective of the law is fundraising and privatisation of health facilities of the province,” said a doctor and leader of his own faction. He didn’t want to be named. Also, he claimed that after the meeting, they felt that the chief minister was helpless to make decisions.

“We reminded the chief minister his own commitment made with doctors and other health workers in a similar meeting on May 21, 2019, in which he ordered constituting a ministerial committee to resolve genuine issues of the medical community and listen to their views before tabling the RHA and DHA bill in the assembly,” he said.

He said the chief minister couldn’t mention openly but they guessed from the conversation that he didn’t have the power to make independent decisions.

“The problem everybody is saying Dr Nausherwan Burki has all the powers but they don’t have the guts to say it on the record. They are afraid of him he as is the cousin of Prime Minister Imran Khan and by criticising him openly, they don’t want to lose jobs,” said an office-bearer of Grand Health Alliance (GHA), an umbrella organisation of all the associations of doctors, paramedics, nursing staff and Class-IV workers of the public sector hospitals.

In the past 20 days, there had been no services to patients in the outpatient departments, operation theatres as well as pathology and radiology in the province.

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