KARACHI/HYDERABAD: Young doctors at the outpatient departments of all government-run hospitals in Sindh refused to provide treatment to thousands of patients on Wednesday while asking the provincial government to issue the promised increase in their salaries and allowances at the earliest.
The Young Doctors Association (YDA), Sindh called for the strike, which they said, would continue until their demands were met.
A senior health official termed it nothing short of “blackmailing”.
The protesting doctors say their strike would continue till demands are met
Thousands of patients were seen helplessly waiting to be treated at the OPDs of the Karachi’s major hospitals and similar scenes were witnessed from other cities of the province as well.
In Hyderabad, all doctors of public hospitals boycotted OPDs and elective operation theatres (OTs) completely and expressed their determination to continue the boycott indefinitely until their demands were met.
They gathered outside the OPDs at Liaquat University Hospital (LUH) Hyderabad and shouted slogans against Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Health Secretary Saeed Awan, Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho and CM’s Adviser Murtaza Wahab.
While protesting at LUH Hyderabad, protesters’ leader Dr Lala Jaffar Khan, Dr Murad Qureshi and Dr Arsalan Mehmood Soomro told Dawn that they realised the hardship of poor patients and therefore they were performing emergency services including emergency OTs, labour room, casualty wards, general wards, etc.
They said that their main demands consisted of rise in salaries at par with their colleagues in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or Punjab, a permanent service structure, due promotion and elimination of rampant corruption in the health department.
Officials at the government-run hospitals said hundreds of surgeries had been cancelled because of the strike. Besides, those doctors refused to serve in wards as well. However, they remained available at the emergencies.
The strike did not augur well for the poor, who largely depend on the government hospitals to get treatment. They frequented different government hospitals to get treatment but to no avail.
A number of those patients were reportedly forced to go to expensive private hospitals and clinics.
The doctors demand that their salaries and allowances be increased at par with their colleagues in Punjab.
The provincial health minister had recently announced on the floor of the Sindh Assembly that all demands of the YDA-Sindh had been accepted by the government and a notification would soon be issued to this effect.
Pay raise after cabinet’s endorsement
The health minister had conceded that it would take some time for issuance of the notification. Another senior health official said that the notification involved tens of millions rupees on a monthly basis and once the summary, which had been approved by the chief minister, was passed by the provincial cabinet, the new salaries and allowances for the doctors could be notified. “This involves a huge financial implication and is required to be approved by the Sindh cabinet before it is issued.”
He termed the strike “blackmail” on part of the striking doctors as it had affected thousands of people in need of medical treatment.
“We have assured them [doctors] that the notification [will be] issued once it is approved by the cabinet. They should realise the requirement for this process,” said another senior official.
“Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab in the presence of health secretary Saeed Awan and other top officials had assured us that a notification would be issued within three days when we called off our boycott on January 30,” said PMA general secretary Dr Pir Manzoor. “We [had] given a week to the government to fulfil all formalities but we have to resort to protest again today because of non-implementation of their promise.”
Umer Sultan, who leads the YDA protest in Karachi, said 11 days had passed to the Sindh government’s assurance to the association despite the fact that they had been assured by the provincial health department that the notification would be issued within a week.
“We have gone for another strike because our colleagues are in distress and pressure on us has already mounted to the maximum level,” said Dr Sultan.
He conceded that the strike had gravely affected the people who depended on the government-run hospitals; yet, he added, they were forced to go on strike. “Our colleagues are serving in the emergencies as per routine,” he added.
Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2019