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LAHORE: Amid fierce opposition from female medics, the Young Doctors Association (YDA) Punjab took out a procession on Jail Road on Tuesday against the government’s decision to impose the Medical Teaching Institutions (MTI) Act.

After closing down the outpatient department (OPD) at the Services Hospital, the young doctors reached Jail Road, blocked it for traffic and raised slogans against the Punjab government for introducing MTI Act at state-run health facilities of the province.

Several paramedic and nurses also joined the agitation, almost halting healthcare to indoor and outdoor patients. They gathered on the road after rallying at the institute where the YDA leaders told the participants that the MTI Act was being introduced to privatise the government teaching hospitals of Punjab.

However, the YDA faced strong resistance from lady doctors at the Services Hospital when a group of its activists allegedly misbehaved with their female colleagues upon their refusal to join the protest. The situation arose when a group of more than eight YDA activists saw the lady doctors attending to patients at the neurosurgery OPD instead of complying with the protest call.

An insider said one of the YDA activists argued with the lady doctors on duty and shouted at them, asking why they were attending to patients when the association had already announced suspension of duty at the OPD on Tuesday. When a young doctor ordered them to stop working, the female medics felt insulted and protested against such behaviour.

The insider said this led to heated arguments between the two sides before the procession, attracting attention of other medics as well. When the lady doctors threatened to take an extreme step over such harassment, the YDA men left the OPD, saying the association will not extend them any support in the future.

The YDA leadership faced further embarrassment when some female medics aired the issue on social media. Several neutral doctors voiced their support for the lady doctors and snubbed the YDA for harassing their female colleagues.

Another official told Dawn that the scores of patients who had come to the hospital suffered when they were forced to leave the OPD. The YDA activists went around various wards of the hospital to gather medics for the rally.

The official lamented that no alternate healthcare arrangements were made for the poor patients at the OPD. He said at least senior medics should resume duties at the OPD. Even the administration officials largely spent their time in their offices instead of ensuring alternate healthcare services.

In the past, he said, health authorities used to design duty rosters by holding meetings with senior faculty members a day before scheduled protests or strikes of the YDA. This time, no alternatives were provided to the patients, the official said.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2019