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Patients run out of patience as doctors refuse to end strike

Updated February 17, 2019

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AN empty portion of the NICH on Saturday as the doctors’ strike continued for the fourth day.—Online
AN empty portion of the NICH on Saturday as the doctors’ strike continued for the fourth day.—Online

KARACHI: Thousands of patients continued to be refused treatment by the striking doctors at the outpatient departments in the government-run hospitals in the metropolis and other cities of Sindh amid “inconclusive” negotiations between the Young Doctors Association’s representatives and the chief minister’s adviser on information and law.

The strike by the doctors that continued for a fourth day on Saturday, has gravely affected the service delivery at the OPDs of several major hospitals and numerous small facilities in Karachi, denying treatment to patients coming from across the province and elsewhere, cancelling hundreds of surgeries and refusing service in hundreds of wards.

“No fewer than 20,000 people arrive at the major government-run hospitals daily to get cheap treatment for their ailments. These poor people are the major sufferers of the situation, which refuses to subside,” a senior official at a large hospital said.

The doctors, however, are working at the emergencies.

‘Why are they doing this against us, against our children?’

During the strike, the doctors have met several times with certain senior officials in the Sindh health ministry with no result emerging. The health ministry officials said a notification about an increase in the salaries and allowances of doctors required a nod from the Sindh cabinet. The strikers, on the other hand, stick to their stance that they would not resume work until the notification as promised by the provincial government a fortnight ago was issued.

On Saturday, YDA officials met Murtaza Wahab, adviser to the Sindh CM on information and law, where they repeated their demand. An official of the Pakistan Medical Association also joined them.

A Sindh government spokesman asked the doctors to resume their duties assuring them that their demands had already been accepted and a notification would be issued as soon as the legal course it required got completed.

The doctors, as they later told reporters, did not relent at the CM’s adviser’s assurance and continued to press for the acceptance of their demands.

Dr Mehboob Ali of the Sindh YDA said their demands remained there and the strike would not be ended until the notification was issued.

He said Mr Wahab had told them that he would discuss the issue with the chief minister before resuming the talks again.

Patients protest

The incessant strike created anger among thousands of patients and their attendants in a number of health facilities in Karachi and elsewhere where a number of them criticised the striking doctors and at some places they even protested in public.

At the National Institute of Child Health, a number of attendants of ailing children gathered. They attacked a camp of the striking doctors while some of them alleged that the strike caused death of two children.

However, NICH officials said the strike had nothing to do with the death of those unfortunate children and they died because of deadly ailments they were suffering from.

Similar protests were reported from several other districts of Sindh where people marched on streets to protest against the doctors who had been on strike for the past four days.

“Why are they doing this against us, against our children? Is there no other way to ask the government to meet their demands,” said a man at the NICH cradling his young boy.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2019