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ISLAMABAD: A doctor has submitted a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the long working hours medical professionals are made to work, especially resident doctors across the country.

In her petition, Dr Nafeesa Hiba has said resident doctors work 102 hours a week and continuously for 30 hours every other day.

She has said that doctors in India work 48-hour weeks and even less in the Western countries. Dr Hiba has said doctors work in unhygienic conditions and are not provided with proper food and safe drinking water. She said this drains doctors and that many women doctors leave the professions due to this.

Dr Hiba filed the petition through her counsel Saimul Haq Satti and has cites the minister of state for National Health Services Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC), secretary NHSRC, chief secretaries Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, president College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan, the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, the attorney general of Pakistan and the advocate general Islamabad as respondents.

Petitioner says resident doctors work 102 hours weekly which damages their well-being, endangers patients’ lives

The petitioner has said she is a qualified MBBS doctor and that doctors are made to work 102 hours a week without off days including post graduate trainees, house officers and medical officers in tertiary care hospitals.

She said the long working hours is damaging to the well being of doctors and also affects patient care. She has said work schedules for doctors are unregulated.

Dr Hiba has said in her petition that doctors get illnesses like insomnia because they do not have proper spaces for taking naps and are not allowed enough time to socialise outside of work, which is a basic human right. The petitioner likened the situation of doctors to slavery and that it not just that they are made to follow such a hectic schedule with no additional pay.

The petitioner has also raised a few questions before the court. She has asked if medical professionals- who save human life and require extensive training and study- come under the definition of “workmen” so they can be entitled to benefits under industrial laws and why if not. If the answer to that question is yes, then what should the “maximum possible duty/working schedule limit” for medical professional working in tertiary care hospitals run by the government.

She has asked if doctors who work under huge stress will be responsible for negligence if an incident occurs or if the head of department, medical superintendents, doctors, vice chancellors of medical universities, post graduate trainees or house officers will be responsible instead. She has said accidents happen that due to the long working hours doctors work which endanger human lives. She has said this creates mistrust between doctors and patients when doctors cannot treat them as well when they are exhausted as this creates the impression that doctors are being wilfully negligent.

She has said making doctors work more than 102 hours a week is a violation of fundamental rights and of the Constitution’s Article 25 which calls for equal opportunity in public employment.

She has quoted a study which says residents who work more than 24 hours are 73pc more at risk of needle-stick injuries and are 2.3 times more likely to have car accidents. The study says 24 hours without sleep slows reaction time similar to alcohol intoxication.

Petitioner has prayed to the court that the governments, medical institutions and universities under command, control or management of the respondents be required to amend their unlawful rules and regulations or the working schedules of doctors.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2017