LAHORE: The provincial health department has come up with stringent measures to prevent importunate doctors from prolonging their protest.
It has asked the heads of the major hospitals in the provincial capital to manage at least 78 doctors each for appointment at their respective institutes to provide treatment to the patients in the absence of striking doctors.
The decisions were taken at a meeting of the medical superintendents headed by Special Secretary Health Dawood Bareach here on Friday.
A source said the health department took several other important steps at the meeting like deputing the police force at the hospitals and issuance of show-cause notices to the ‘disobedient’ doctors. He said a majority of the medical superintendents however opposed the strategy, insisting such an exercise failed during the last year’s 37-day long strike of the young doctors.
They warned that any departmental or police action against the doctors might cause unrest among the whole medical community and trigger complete closure of the public-sector hospitals.
“If the hospitals remain shut for even one hour, the situation can lead to deaths of hundreds of patients at the emergencies, ICUs, CCUs and operation theatres,” a source quoted them as saying.
The source said the institutional heads got strict instructions to ensure attendance of all doctors and prepare lists of those found absent from duties for three consecutive days to initiate proceedings against them under the Essential Services Act 1958.
They were also directed to advertise vacant posts for the recruitment of doctors on an ad hoc basis in case of shortage of practitioners. At least 10 army doctors would be sent to each teaching hospital.
The meeting decided that the ‘new recruits’ would provide treatment to the patients under police security and at least an SP would supervise the arrangements at the hospitals. The police have been authorised to arrest those troublemakers (doctors).
Keeping in view the growing complaints of senior doctors’ support to their young colleagues on strike, the heads of the teaching hospitals had been directed to ensure presence of the consultants during agitation.
The medical superintendents, however, told the health secretary that the teaching and consultant cadre doctors were directly answerable to the principals only. They complained that the senior doctors marked their attendance at their departments and did not provide record to the administrations.
Mr Bareach directed them to issue a circular addressing the senior doctors to provide a copy of the attendance sheet daily to the hospital administrations. He also asked them to cancel the summer holidays of all senior doctors during the ongoing strike. The hospital heads said only the health department was authorised to cancel holidays.
He also directed them to provide complete record of the doctors residing in the hostels of government medical colleges.
A Young Doctors Association, Punjab office-bearer, Dr Mudasar Razaq Khan said they launched agitation after the health authorities ‘shelved’ the draft of service structure proposed by the stakeholders. He said the Punjab government had itself notified a 10-member committee on July 7 to prepare a draft of service structure for all cadres of doctors.
He said Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Health Khwaja Salman Rafique had been appointed committee convener. Other members were Senator Pervaiz Rashid, the law and parliamentary affairs secretary, the health secretary, the regulation secretary, the finance secretary, the prosecution secretary and a representative each from the PMA, the YDA and the Medical Teachers Association (MTA).
He said the health department had abruptly stopped the dialogue process and was responsible for the crisis.
“We are still ready to talk on the issue of service structure,” he said and added that this time the YDA Punjab had decided to start negotiations directly with the chief minister.