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October 18, 2019

Doctors’ strike in KP continues on 21st day


October 18, 2019

PESHAWAR: The situation again remained tense in the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) when a group of protesting doctors on Thursday attempted to stop their fellow doctors from attending patients in the outpatient department of the hospital.

All health workers, including doctors, paramedics, nursing staff and non-technical Class-IV workers have been on strike since September 27. Except the so-called emergency cover, they suspended all services in the hospitals of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The LRH administration had called a meeting of the senior faculty members on Wednesday and informed them about the government directions that healthcare services to the patients in the hospital should be ensured.

According to senior officials of the hospital, the faculty members agreed to attend OPDs but expressed concern about their security, apparently from the junior doctors or members of the Grand Health Alliance (GHA).

The GHA is an umbrella organisation of all the associations of doctors, paramedics, nursing staff and Class-IV workers of the public sector hospitals. It launched the protest against the Regional Health Authority (RHA) and District Health Authority (DHA, the bill for which was recently passed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.

According to officials, the LRH administration in the meeting with senior faculty members had assured them of full security if they attended OPDs.

“On Thursday when most of the doctors started attending OPDs, it sent a very positive message though the protesting doctors were shocked. The hospital administration had taken security measures and the protesting health workers could not come in large numbers. They came in small groups of two or three persons and started harassing the doctors attending patients in the OPDs,” said an official of the LRH administration.

He said the hospital security staff tried to stop the protesting doctors from harassing doctors and creating disturbance in the OPDs, and it led to scuffle between the doctors and security staff.

“We knew they would come and create problems to provoke the hospital administration on using force. But we made a commitment that we would not use force as we didn’t want to give them an opportunity to justify their strike,” said an official of the hospital administration.

He said Associate Hospital Director LRH Dr Tariq Burki was present in the OPDs to avoid any unpleasant situation when the protesting doctors arrived and started raising slogans against the government, chief minister, health minister, Dr Nausherwan Burki and the LRH administration.

According to the LRH administration, a trainee medical officer, Dr Sajjad Yousafzai led the protesters in LRH to disrupt OPDs. He reportedly suffered injuries and was immediately taken to the emergency department for treatment. His condition was stable.

“Tell me what should we do? The government wanted us to ensure services to the patients and the faculty is willing to attend OPDs if given security. This is not justice that the striking doctors don’t want to attend OPDs and don’t not allow other to provide services,” an official of the LRH administration said.

The protesting doctors then informed their fellows in other hospitals and soon a large number of health workers joined them.

Their protest turned into a big gathering in front of OPDs.The protesting doctors criticised the government for allegedly following IMF dictation to privatise the public sector hospitals. They vowed to continue their protest till all their demands are accepted.

After their protest near OPDs, they marched in the hospital and held a meeting in front of the offices of LRH administration. The hospital administration, however, avoided use of force. The protestors later dispersed.