KARACHI, Aug 24: Doctors and paramedics of the Civil Hospital Karachi announced on Friday a boycott of work, excluding emergency services, till the arrest of the men booked for beating up a doctor and a paramedical staff member after a wounded man died in the surgical ward of the CHK in the early hours of the day.
The announcement was made at a protest meeting of doctors and paramedical staff.
Speakers at the gathering held at the DMC auditorium criticised the government and demanded stringent security measures for health providers at the hospital.
The protesting doctors, including faculty members of the Dow University of Health Sciences, and paramedical staff were told that attendants and friends of the man brought to the hospital with gunshot wounds from Lyari on Wednesday and operated upon the same day for the removal of a portion of his intestine damaged by a bullet had been unruly since day one.
They roamed about in the surgical ward and operation theatre carrying arms and harassing both doctors and staff on duty. As police and other law-enforcers were absent, the hostile group of attendants went berserk when the patient was pronounced dead, said a senior doctor. They beat up a surgeon, Dr Umair Ul Islam, also an associate professor of surgery at the DUHS, and an operation theatre technician, Mohammad Akram.
A senior faculty member of the university said Dr Islam, who was called in to attend an emergency from home at around 12.30pm by his juniors, received severe injuries on his face and neck and bled profusely. During the assault there was no security guard or policeman to rescue him and the technician.
The gathering was attended by members of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), Young Doctors Association (YDA), Sindh Para Medical Staff Association (SPMSA), senior professors, faculty members, doctors, para-medical staff and a large number of students of the DUHS.
The participants in the meeting expressed grave concern over the manhandling of the doctor and described the incident a homicidal attempt on the doctor, said a DUHS press release.
Speaking at the meeting, Prof Dr Masood Hameed Khan, vice chancellor of the DUHS, said such ugly incidents were on the rise and the government must take measures to protect the doctors.
The doctors were feeling insecure because of frequent killings, kidnappings and manhandling, he said, adding that they were finding it difficult to work in such hostile circumstances.
He said he had talked to the DUHS chancellor, the governor of Sindh, after the incident and that as per directives of the governor the DUHS would immediately hire 50 private security guards for the CHK, for which finances would be equally shared by the Governor’s House and the DUHS.
He said a judicial inquiry be initiated into the incident and strict action taken against culprits.
Prof Dr Umer Farooq, pro-vice chancellor of the DUHS, said doctors could not work in an environment of fear. “Our highly qualified doctors and faculty members are working day in and day out in the hospital in an environment where armed men are roaming freely,” he said.
Dr Junaid Ashraf, principal of the Dow Medical College, condemned the physical attack on the doctor and the technician at work and said it was a matter of grave concern that once again one of the senior faculty members of Dow was severely injured.
Dr Samrina Hashmi, a PMA Sindh leader, said such incidents were compelling the technical staff and doctors to leave the country. She demanded an exemplary punishment for those involved in such crimes.
Urging the doctors’ community to stay united, Dr Hashmi also announced the closure of all elective work at the CHK.
Dr Islam, the main victim, called the incident a brutal attack. He said it was time something was done for the protection of doctors and this kind of incident should not be repeated.
Dr Saeed Qureshy, the medical superintendent of the CHK, who was also present at the protest meeting, told Dawn later that his hospital had witnessed such incidents off and on and required prompt action and deterrence to address the situation.
He said he was informed about the incident at around 2.30am, following which the hospital’s internal security system was tightened, but by that time the culprits had left the surgical OT and ward.
The CHK had about 60 chowkidars besides about 100 private security men and supervisors, but they were unable to stop patients’ attendants from resorting to violence and hooliganism, he said, adding that the CHK had two main entrances and two secondary entry points, which needed to be manned by Rangers or police.
He said senior police officers from the area had visited the hospital on Friday and promised strict surveillance against criminal activities and arrest of the suspects nominated in the FIR of the Friday incident.Sindh minister for health Dr Sagheer Ahmad said security would be beefed up at the CHK. He said the law-enforcement authorities had assured him that the Rangers and police strength would be increased at the CHIK to ensure utmost security for the doctors and paramedics there.
The PMA, Karachi, also condemned the “inhuman behaviour imparted to Dr Islam and OT technician Akram by the intolerant mob at CHK”.
“We pay salute to both health professionals for performing their professional duties honestly and demand security for health providers and immediate arrest and punishment to culprits,” said a statement issued by Dr Idrees Adhi, president, and Dr Qazi Wasiq, secretary of the PMA Karachi.
According to leaders of the Sindh Doctors Welfare Association, the SDWA, PMA, YDA-CHK and MTA-CHK have also announced a complete closure of operation theatres and OPDs at the CHK from Saturday onward to protest against the insecurity and beating up of a senior doctor and a technician after the death of a gunshot wounded patient.
“Our protest will continue till the arrest of the culprits,” said Dr Mujtaba Memon of the SDWA.
Sindh Private Hospitals and Clinics Welfare Association and College of Family Medicine Pakistan have also condemned the assault on the health professionals. The leaders of the two bodies in statement also threatened to join the proposed strike if the government continued its silence on the issue.
Leaders of the PMA-Central and the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association have also condemned the violence against Dr Islam and Mr Akram, demanding complete protection for doctors and paramedical staff at every healthcare setup and arrest of suspects in the latest case.
A joint protest rally of teachers, doctors, paramedical and technical staff and medical students has also been planned for Saturday at the DUHS.