At least 10 medical professionals suffered injuries on Friday after Peshawar police resorted to tear gas shelling and launched a baton charge in the premises of the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) in order to disperse doctors who had gathered there to protest.
Among the injured was Young Doctors Association (YDA) Chairman Dr Zubair, who is reportedly in critical condition, the association's spokesperson Dr Izhar said. YDA President Dr Rizwan Kundi's arm was also allegedly fractured after police used force to stop the demonstration.
More than 15 protesters had been arrested, including paramedics and female nurses, the spokesperson claimed.
Talking to DawnNewsTV about the clashes, Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Zahoor Babar Afridi said that the police had resorted to force in a bid to control the situation. He said that about eight police officers had been injured by stone pelting by doctors and that 13 protesters were detained.
Doctors across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been protesting for the past two days against the Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019 — which was passed by the provincial assembly today — which they describe as "nothing short of privatisation of government hospitals". They had announced to gather in Peshawar today to protest against the law.
Following the announcement, the district administration had imposed Article 144 in the LRH premises on the request of the hospital's administration, forbidding more than five doctors from gathering in one place. The administration of the hospital had also advised doctors to carry their hospital identity cards with them at all times as they were not to be allowed to enter the hospital premises without them.
The hospital spokesperson had also announced that the administration will not allow anyone to protest and strict action would be taken against those who disobeyed orders. Heavy contingents of police were also deployed outside LRH.
After the clashes, the protesters staged a sit-in on GT Road, near the KP Assembly. According to the doctors, they had not been consulted by authorities in the drafting of the bill.
Following the clashes, the Grand Health Alliance (GHA) announced that it would shut down outpatient clinics in hospitals all over the province for an indefinite period of time.
What is Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019?
Under the Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019, that was passed by the KP Assembly today, health authorities will be established by the government at regional and district levels.
The federal and provincial government will provide funds to each authority, that will report to a policy board, chaired by the KP health minister. The regional authorities will have the power to:
ensure that objectives set by Regional Health Authority (RHA) are achieved and oversee effective management and issue strategic directions to health facilities in the assigned region.
approve budget of RHA and allocate funds to health facilities
oversee health service delivery
implement government policies and directions
ensure that its programmes are effective and efficient
The law also dictates that the doctors that are already serving, will continue to be treated as civil servants and will be entitled to pension and other such benefits. The regional health authority will have the authority to transfer doctors as per need in health facilities in their respective districts of domicile.
The law further says that the existing cadre will be treated as the "dying cadre" and will continue until the retirement of the last civil servant, after which the posts will be abolished and regional authorities will have the power to create positions and recruit as per regulations.