AS doctors in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa continue their province-wide strike for the fourth day, the government has once again warned them to return to work or face action. But with no negotiation process in sight, and neither side willing to back down from its position, there is no saying how much longer the strike will go on for, or what the outcome will be. The doctor’s foremost demand is for the police to register an FIR against the provincial health minister, Dr Hisham Inamullah Khan. Dr Khan is reported to be responsible for an altercation that left an assistant professor, Dr Ziauddin Afridi, bruised and bloodied. Prior to this incident that made national headlines, resentment had been simmering under the surface. Dr Afridi had been trying to communicate with the architect of the KP health reforms Dr Nausherwan Burki about a promotion he apparently did not receive for a while. Frustrated at not being heard, he attempted to hurl eggs at Dr Burki as a last resort. To resolve matters, apparently, the health minister then approached Dr Afridi with his security guards — only for matters to take a turn for the worse.
Since the passing of several reforms introduced in the previous tenure, there has been growing resentment among doctors who felt their service structure has been disturbed. The autonomy of public hospitals has been handed to a board of governors, which many felt introduced an arbitrary system when it came to promotion and practice, and there are reportedly few cheques and balances in place. They believe the US-based Dr Burki is transporting an alien system to KP, without taking the ground realities into consideration. Another major point of resentment includes transfers on the basis of domiciles under the district health authority plan. In the blame game that is currently under way, it is the poor patients who cannot afford private healthcare that are suffering the most. For their sake alone, the government and doctor’s bodies must sit down and reach a compromise.
Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2019