PESHAWAR, Dec 30: Doctors continue to resort to shutting outpatient departments, operation theatres and wards in the provincial capital’s hospitals despite the government’s notification declaring that strikes by doctors, nurses and paramedics are illegal and delivery of health services essential.

The Saturday’s strike by Young Doctors Association is just the latest example of how the medical community is playing with the patients’ health at the government hospitals while the government failed to come to the rescue of the taxpayers and ensure them medical treatment.

The doctors’ associations have focused their anger at the three major Peshawar hospitals, including Khyber Teaching Hospital, Lady Reading Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex. About 15,000 patients visited the OPDs, about 1,000 were hospitalised and another 1,000 operated upon daily in these three hospitals.

The role of senior consultants in checking these strikes also seems doubtful as strikes bring with them additional benefits for private clinics where they would receive double the patients in their clinics than on routine days.

Only this year the doctors have been able to keep the hospitals shut for at least 30 days, denying care to patients seeking treatment at the government hospitals, while they got their salaries regularly.

More than one association of doctors resort to strikes as they don’t bother to care for the poor patients who cannot pay consultation fee at private clinics and visit the government hospitals in the hope of getting proper treatment.

Flouting the court and government directives to stay away from strikes has become a routine for doctors, for whom the government has announced many incentives such as increase in monthly stipend of house job doctors from Rs6,210 to Rs24,000 and of trainee medical officers from Rs10,000 to Rs42,000 besides raising the non-practicing allowance of BPS-17 and 18 doctors from Rs500 to Rs3,000 and the BPS-19 and 20 doctors to Rs4,000 from Rs700 a month.

Only this year, 2,938 of 3,573 doctors in BPS-17 were promoted to BPS-18 and 1,630 from BPS-18 to 19, but strikes still continue unchecked. A total of Rs1.3 billion had been spent on doctors’ promotions during year 2012.

In June 2012, the health department in compliance with the Peshawar High Court directives had declared health care as essential service and asked doctors, nurses and paramedics to stay away from strikes, but the notification failed to rein in the doctors.

Under the law notified by the health department, the doctors creating obstacles in patients’ care will face disciplinary action, including withholding of their salary and increment and suspension or termination from service, while the medics have to be held responsible for harming patients during strike.

According to the notification, strikes by health care providers in government-run institutions are illegal and violators liable to be dealt with in line with the Essential Services Act, 1958.

Like other associations of public servants, the doctors don’t set deadline for acceptance of their demands, but immediately lock up hospitals, leaving the poor patients high and dry.

The high government officials, bureaucrats, lawmakers and influential lot don’t visit the government hospitals for treatment and this may be the one major reason for the relevant authorities not taking timely action to ensure that state-run hospitals are open to poor patients.

The government’s weakness coupled with the medics’ insensitivity to their oath that they would serve patients indicates that those banking on government hospitals for treatment would continue to suffer.

Updated Dec 30, 2012 10:32pm

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