PESHAWAR: The doctors and paramedics of government health facilities in the province continued with their strike on Saturday even after the release of 15 Grand Health Alliance activists from the Central Jail, Mardan.

The GHA activists warmly received the detainees outside the jail on Friday night and took them to the Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar, vowing to continue the protest until the acceptance of their demands.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that GHA is going to call off the protest on the persuasion of retired medical consultants, who played part for their unconditional release by the authorities.

Reports suggest GHA going to call off protest

On Oct 5, the GHA had refused to accept an offer of the Peshawar High Court for the release of its detained members in return for an end to the strike fearing that the act will harm their struggle for rights.

However, a group of former senior consultants, who enjoy respect among both doctors and government circles, are out to end the standoff and pave the way for the resumption of health services.

Sources said the consultants had already helped secure the release of the workers after 15 days without completion of their detention period of one-month. Now, efforts are afoot to reverse the transfers and disciplinary actions against the protesting employees to create a win-win situation for both the government and GHA.

Sources said the GHA leaders knew it that the provincial government couldn’t address their grievances for having no role in the enforcement of the Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019, as the legislation was orchestrated by Prof Nausherwan Barki, the powerful chairman of the prime minister’s task force on healthcare.

They said the provincial government could only cancel transfers of protesters and disciplinary action taken over the strike and that the reversal of the RDHA already passed by the assembly couldn’t happen without the approval of Prof Barki.

Prof Barki is the brains behind the Medical Teaching Institutions Reforms Act, 2015, which was passed during the last PTI government in the province.

The GHA’s demands also included the removal of top officials of the MTI-covered institutions over appointment in the alleged violation of merit as disclosed by the inquiries conducted on the Supreme Court orders.

The alliance also called for the registration of FIRs against health minister Hisham Inamullah Khan for beating up general surgeon Dr Ziauddin and against SSP Zahoor Afridi for subjecting its members to violence at the LRH on Sept 27.

It also demanded the removal of Prof Barki as the head of the health reforms process in the province, which the officials considered to be beyond the department.

As the strike entered third week, the visitors to hospitals continued to suffer, especially in outpatient departments, due to the absence of doctors and paramedics.

However, the people, who were critically ill or wounded, received treatment by the GHA activists.

No untoward incident has been reported during the GHA’s protest campaign.

Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2019