PESHAWAR: The strike by health professionals in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa continued on ninth consecutive day on Thursday, however, they deferred their protest at Lady Reading Hospital scheduled for Friday (today).

On the other hand, health department has again asked the administration of the hospitals to ensure implementation of the essential services law invoked on September 27 for providing uninterrupted healthcare to patients.

The government invoked West Pakistan Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1958 for three months in an effort to ensure presence of staff at hospitals amid the continuing province-wide strike of doctors against the enforcement of Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019 but it made no difference as the agitation is still in progress.

Govt again asks hospitals to ensure presence of doctors at duty places

The Grand Health Alliance, an umbrella organisation of doctors, paramedics, nurses and others employees, continued protest against Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019, thrashing and detaining of its members by police at Lady Reading Hospital last week and for removal of Health Minister Hisham Inamullah Khan and Prof Nausherwan Barki, the architect of health reforms in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The protesters held demonstrations throughout the province, suspended services and attended only critically-ill and injured persons.

Dr Salim Yousafzai, a member of GDA, said that the alliance deferred its protest at Lady Reading Hospital from Friday to Monday as a goodwill gesture. However, he said that the strike would continue till acceptance of their demands. “We cannot believe in mere assurances by the government about our grievances,” he added.

On Thursday, the health department again circulated the same directive to medical teaching institutions, district headquarters hospitals and medical superintendents, asking them to ensure round the clock health services and strictly prohibit strikes, protests and gathering on the premises of healthcare outlets by demonstrators.

They were directed to ensure compliance with the order and other relevant laws, rules, regulations and policy in letter and spirit to prevent protests.

The directive said that government was in process of substantially improving healthcare services at every level across the province for which necessary legislation and policies were being formulated.

“It is utmost important that healthcare services remain continued without any interruption as there is no room for the employees, who are standing in way of health services to the patients,” it said.

However, the health employees seemed undeterred OPDs, operation theatres and investigation services stayed completely closed despite deployment of police at the hospitals.

Meanwhile, a bench of Peshawar High Court fixed Friday for hearing two petitions challenging detention of 16 health professionals on August 27 under the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance.

The bench of PHC Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Abdul Shakoor, which took up for hearing the petitions on Thursday, adjourned the hearing after the two sides including provincial government and doctors could not reach any agreed terms for release of the detained persons.

When the bench took up for hearing the cases, it gave some time to the government and lawyers appearing for doctors to try to resolve the issue through negotiations.

Later in the day, KP Advocate General Shumail Ahmad Butt informed the court that government was ready for conditional release of the detainees if they made commitment of not to force health professionals including doctors and paramedics to observe strikes in public sector health facilities.

He said that the detainees should give assurance that they would not protest during duty hours and would join their duties.

Advocate Abdul Lateef Afridi, Shabbir Hussain Gigyani and other lawyers, representing the detainees, stated that their clients had no trust in the provincial government.

Mr Afridi said that the protesting doctors had stated that the government had deceived them thrice in the past and backtracked from certain commitments made with them.

The bench decided that as both the sides could not reach any agreement, therefore, it would hear arguments of the parties in the petitions on Friday.

One of the petitions has been jointly filed by 15 of the detainees including Syed Roidar Shah, Dr Alamgir Yousafzai and others. The other petition has been filed by a detainee, Shamsul Arifeen.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2019

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