PESHAWAR: Amid a crippling strike in all health facilities across the province, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Friday announced that it would open outpatient departments (OPDs) in all major hospitals on Saturday (today), warning the protesting doctors of stern action.
The OPD services in all major hospitals all over the province are closed due to the doctors’ protest following a scuffle between a senior doctor and the provincial minister health and his guards in the Khyber Teaching Hospital on Tuesday.
Since then doctors have gone on strike across the province, causing immense problems to poor patients who have come to visit doctors from far-flung areas of the province. OPDs in all major hospitals of the province were deserted on Friday, forcing patients to approach private health facilities.
Protesting doctors warned of stern action; demand for removal of health minister rejected
Addressing a press conference at the Civil Secretariat cabinet room, KP government spokesman Shaukat Yousafzai said the government had decided to resume the OPD service from Saturday and anyone creating hurdles would be dealt with an iron hand.
He said the government was preparing a list of those doctors who were creating hurdles and show-cause notices would be issued to them today (Friday). “A handful of doctors want to sabotage health reforms introduced in the province by the PTI government,” he added.
Mr Yousafzai said the provincial government had brought reforms to the health sector to facilitate the people of remote areas, but unfortunately some doctors wanted to sabotage it due to their personal and political interests. In line with the health reforms, he added, the KP government had increased the strength of specialist doctors from 280 to 931, medical officers from 3,639 to 8,801, house officers from 24,000 to 62,000 and TMOs (trainee medical officers) from 42,000 to 103,000 at public sector hospitals.
Mr Yousafzai said an inquiry was already in process into the quarrel between the doctors and the minister’s security staff and asked the doctors to let the inquiry committee complete its investigation. He also warned that the government’s action could lead to dismissal of the protesting doctors. He categorically rejected two demands by the protesting doctors, including removal of Health Minister Dr Hisham and of Dr Nosherwan Burki, chairman of GoB of the Lady Reading Hospital.
Mr Yousafzai said some doctors wanted to volunteer services at the OPD and if they were stopped from doing so, the government would take action accordingly and sternly.
Speaking on the occasion, provincial Health Secretary Dr Mohammad Farooq said the health department had ordered transfer of 700 doctors to their districts of domicile. A total of 2,500 doctors would be transferred to different districts, he added.
Meanwhile, Dr Rizwan Kundi, president of the KP Young Doctors Association, criticised Mr Yousafzai’s announcement to open OPDs and said nobody had forcibly closed the OPDs and the doctors were boycotting duties at their own free will. “Let Mr Yousafzai come and try to open the OPDs on Saturday,” Dr Kundi told Dawn.
Separately, a spokesperson for the Peshawar police said that security at all hospitals across the city had been beefed up due to the ongoing tense situation. City police spokesperson Ilyas Sadozai said additional police personnel had been deployed at three tertiary and other hospitals of the city, while armored personnel carriers had been deputed outside all major hospitals. He said additional police personnel had been called to the provincial capital from other districts.
Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2019