LAHORE: The Punjab chapter of Young Doctors Association, which has given a tough time to the government through various vigorous drives since its formation, could not keep its ‘unity’ intact as it has divided into many groups.
Factions have appeared due to serious rifts that started for monopoly at government hospitals of the province.Formed some eight years back, the YDA Punjab was representing over 20,000 young doctors at all government hospitals of the province. The main strength of the association has been the postgraduate trainees and house officers.
The differences, which initially started at the hospital level all over the province, have now permeated the central leadership, dividing it into two main groups.One group is being led by YDA former president Dr Hamid Butt and other one by Dr Amir Bandesha who has support of the entire present body of the association, including president Dr Ajmal Chaudhry.
Both sides are levelling allegations of corruption, malpractices and favouritism against each other.
Obtaining plots from the government, bribe from young medics for inducting them in postgraduate training and as house officers (HOs) were also some of the allegations being levelled by the leaders against each other.
In the absence of the mediation efforts between them, the differences had widened to the ‘point of no return’, some insiders told Dawn.
They said the culture of ‘traditional union’ also prevailed among the young doctors’ community.
Giving an example in this regard, an insider said in Bahawal Victoria Hospital (BVH) a group of young doctors opened fire on rivals, injuring one of them. They lodged criminal cases against each other at the local police station.
In Mayo Hospital, Lahore, an incident of similar nature took place some time back when a doctor brought pistol to settle difference with his rivals.
Recently, the government’s new scheme - central induction policy for postgraduate trainees (PGs) - also ‘added fuel to fire’ in respect of unity when a group strongly opposed the proposal while the other backed it.
“Now the rifts have made the old friends enemies,” the insider said.
He said rivalry between the groups also affected patient care at state-run hospitals since both were using strength and resources against each other.
Some independent observers in the YDA said the association had lost its dignity and strength even at medical institutions in Lahore where it had strongholds as some leaders allegedly indulged in corruption.
They said there was a strong perception that the ‘unnecessary interference’ of former body of the YDA Punjab in the affairs of the present association was also a cause of divisions in the community.
They said the current body during dialogue with the government won many handsome packages for the young community. The former office-bearers could not digest this credit and started propaganda, they claimed.
Another insider said the rifts particularly surfaced when some YDA leaders at Mayo Hospital got PGs inducted by taking Rs50,000 per case. Dr Hamid Butt first raised the voice declaring it injustice and unhealthy culture, he said.
Almost same was the situation at many other teaching hospitals of Punjab where hefty money was being taken from HOs for induction against paid and honorary slots.
Presently, he said, three doctors cafés were being run at the teaching hospitals of the provincial capital – Services, Jinnah and Sir Ganga Ram.
Each cafe could be rented out against Rs5 million to Rs10m through award of tenders, he said.
“But all the three cafes are being run by YDA leaders without tender process with multiple complaints of substandard stuff and no one knows about the income,” he said.
A former president of the association and current top leader of the YDA also came under attack when they were accused of misuse of authority and having fake academic documents, respectively. “With the passage of time it has been proved that the reason behind divisions is an attempt to hold monopoly by certain leaders of the YDA Punjab,” the insider said.
The scale of differences within the YDA can be gauged from the fact that in Mayo Hospital alone, the association has three groups.
Of them two are being backed by Dr Hamid Butt and the other by present body of the association.
Similarly, a body named House Officers Association (HOA) has appeared in many other hospitals of Punjab, including Nishtar, Multan, and BVH. The HOA is also being formed at Shaikh Zayed Hospital, Lahore, and Jinnah Hospital.
YDA South Punjab, which had already been functioning against the YDA Punjab, was strengthened in region’s all government hospitals. Dr Hamid Butt group is backing this organisation. Another - United Doctors Front - has been formed at the Nishtar Hospital.
Some days back the entire Jhelum chapter of YDA had resigned to protest against ‘rude behaviour’ of a central leader of the association.
Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2016