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April 4, 2020

Doctors feel wronged as govt deducts 10pc of their salaries for COVID-19 fund

Karachi

April 4, 2020

Instead of providing any health risk allowance or other benefits to the doctors who have been risking their lives while serving at the public hospitals in Sindh during the pandemic, the provincial health department has deducted 10 per cent of their salaries, The News has learnt.

The situation is more or less same at many private health facilities where their administration have started to deduct some amount from the salaries of their doctors and paramedical staff to cover their revenue losses during the coronavirus outbreak.

“They have deducted 10 per cent amount from my salary of March 2020 and this deduction has been carried out for the coronavirus fund. We are the front line force against the pandemic and instead of paying us a risk allowance, they have started deducting our salaries, which is inhuman,” said Dr Omar Sultan, the Young Doctors Association (YDA) Sindh chairman, as he spoke to The News on Friday.

Dr Sultan said that on the one hand, hundreds of doctors were forced to work for days and nights without any rest and without personal protective equipment (PPE) at wards and emergencies and on the other hand, they were being deprived of their salaries, which was highly condemnable and a shameful act of the provincial health department.

He further claimed that hundreds of postgraduate students (PGs) and house officers, who are the backbone of the healthcare system in the country, were also not being paid their stipends by the government for the last several months and many young doctors were unable to come to hospitals due to lack of money for transportation.

When contacted, a spokesperson for the health department told The News that the cut in the salaries of doctors was an unintended consequence of the government decision to slash the salaries of all the government officials as well as the MPAs to meet the revenue shortfall.

The spokesperson said the provincial government valued the services being rendered by the doctors and paramedical staff during the coronavirus pandemic and was considering giving them a health risk allowance.

Meanwhile, some private health facilities have also started deducting salaries of their healthcare staff on the pretext of covering their revenue losses. This act by the private health facilities’ management has been causing extreme resentment and anxiety among healthcare workers in the private sector.

“Our hospital asked us to work alternatively following the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan and we thought they were concerned about our safety. But when we got our pay cheques, there was almost a 50 per cent deduction. When we inquired, they said as we had worked for very few days, we would be paid accordingly,” said a paramedic working at a major private hospital in Gulshan-e-Iqbal.

The administration of such private hospitals are of the view that they had been losing revenue due to the coronavirus outbreak as patients were not visiting the healthcare facilities due to fear. They added that when the situation would improve, they would compensate their workers normally.

Condemning the situation, the Pakistan Islamic Medication Association (PIMA) expressed concern over the 10 per cent deduction from the salaries of the healthcare providers by the provincial government, who are fighting as front line workers against coronavirus, saying that Punjab and other provincial governments had announced an additional one-month salary for their doctors.

In a statement, PIMA Karachi President Dr Azeemuddin demanded the immediate release of salaries and stipends of house officers and postgraduate students and warned that if the proper and standard protection was not provided to these courageous soldiers, the health system would collapse.

PIMA also stressed the provision of basic PPE in primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities where doctors were working without even basic protection.

The Islamic medical association emphasised that only ‘salutes’ were not enough for the doctors. It was the state's responsibility to protect its front line fighters but it seemed that red tape was still obstructing the supply of mandatory equipment even in this situation of national emergency.

PIMA also condemned the private hospitals and medical centres that were deducting salaries of their staff with the excuse of lowered workload and lesser income.

These private healthcare facilities should avoid such indecent policies in this hour of need, the association said, urging the government to take strict notice of such malpractices.

PIMA said it had already started a free telemedicine programme by the name of ‘PIMA healthline’ in order to address the basic health issues of general population across the country. Around 150 consultants of different health specialisations are available online for free medical advice under the programme.