Commuters suffer as protesting medics block road in Peshawar

Updated October 11, 2019

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Motorists stuck in a traffic jam on GT Road near Balahisar Fort, Peshawar, on Thursday due to doctors’ protest. — White Star
Motorists stuck in a traffic jam on GT Road near Balahisar Fort, Peshawar, on Thursday due to doctors’ protest. — White Star

PESHAWAR: Commuters and motorists faced one of the worst gridlocks in the provincial capital when protesting medical community blocked the main traffic artery on Thursday as Grand Health Alliance continued boycott of duty in public sector hospitals across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

GHA, an organisation of health employees including doctors, nurses, paramedics and Class-IV staff, has been protesting against Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019 and non-implementation of the inquiries conducted on directives of Supreme Court regarding irregularities in the medical teaching institutions.

It also demands removal of health minister for beating a general surgeon and Prof Nausherwan Barki, the chairman of Prime Minister Task Force on Health, for devising health-related laws to privatise public sector hospitals.

GHA spokesman says strike of health professionals will continue

The members of the alliance reached the provincial capital from different districts to assemble at Lady Reading Hospital but they were denied entry owing to deployment of police that prompted them to march towards the assembly.

They held sit-in for few hours as people suffered due to massive traffic jam.

“We have decided to continue the boycott. Tomorrow, we will also block the main roads in front of each hospital across the province,” said GHA spokesman Dr Hazrat Akbar. He added that the government did not bother about their demands but they could not allow privatisation of hospitals.

The government seems unmoved by protest and has warned the alliance members to stay away from disrupting health services because they are paid for their work.

There is no looking back and as far as RDHA is concerned, it will be enforced in letter and spirit, according to the experts, who have drafted the law.

Dr Syed Farooq Jamil, the special secretary health, when contacted, said that legislation was the job of the assembly and the patients should not suffer at any cost.

“The protesting employees have the right to challenge the law at appropriate forum but they shouldn’t deny health services to people visiting the government hospitals,” he said. He added that the department had already taken disciplinary action and would ensure that health facilities functioned properly.

Sources in health department said that show-cause notices were served on 39 more doctors for taking part in the strike and action against paramedics, nurses and Class-IV employees was being taken.

Political leaders including Awami National Party provincial president Aimal Wali Khan, JUI-F’s Asif Iqbal Daudzai, PNL-N’s Ihtiar Wali Khan and others also addressed the participants of sit-in near the assembly.

Meanwhile, senior professors have also contacted Health Minister Hisham Inamullah Khan to play role for ending the ongoing standoff between government and GHA and pave the way for resumption of patients’ care at the hospitals where only emergency services are available to serious patients. The OPDs are completely shut throughout the province but about 50 per cent people receive services at emergency departments.

The GHA leaders are under pressure to withdraw essential services but they argue that it is unethical for medical professionals to deny treatment to critically-ill and injured people. Staff remains present at the duty places as usual while those deployed at OPD stay there but don’t work.

The GHA members say that none of government’s minister has contacted them during the strike to talk to them. Indications are that the patients will continue to suffer as there is no end in sight to the strike.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2019