‘1.2m patients denied treatment during strike in Punjab’

Updated November 09, 2019

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A majority of those denied treatment were people from poor segment of society and most of them were forced to get treatment from private health facilities. — Online/File
A majority of those denied treatment were people from poor segment of society and most of them were forced to get treatment from private health facilities. — Online/File

LAHORE: More than 1.2 million patients were denied treatment at the 44 tertiary care hospitals in Punjab during the month-long strike of the employees against the government plan to enforce the Medical Teaching Institutions (MTI) Ordinance.

The figure surfaced in the analysis by the Specialized Healthcare & Medical Education Department that worked on the data and revealed it after the protesters resumed their duties at the health facilities across the province on Friday.

“The analysis was prepared by the data entry operators and officials of the health department on the basis of the reports obtained from the heads of the medical and dental institutions during the 30-day strike of the doctors, nurses and paramedics,” an official told Dawn.

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He said a majority of those denied treatment were people from poor segment of society and most of them were forced to get treatment from private health facilities.

He said the health department had sent a list of 65 postgraduate trainees to the College of Physicians & Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP) for action against them for disrupting healthcare services. Of them, he said, the names of four PGs were forwarded two days ago to the CPSP which has called its disciplinary committee meeting in Karachi in the next few days to take a decision on the future of these medics.

During a meeting on Friday, he said, the health authorities reminded Fatima Jinnah Medical University Vice Chancellor Prof Aamir Zaman Khan to ensure action against the PGs in the light of the recommendations forwarded by their department. The official said the health department had called Prof Aamir to attend the meeting because he is the CPSP council member.

The official said that in routine days, an average 8.1 million patients daily visit OPDs and the indoor departments of the government teaching hospitals of Punjab. The number, however, dropped to approximately 50pc and in some hospitals that are considered the stronghold of the young doctors, to approximately 30pc.

Only hospitals like the Mayo Hospital, Gujranwala Hospital and to some extent Nishtar Hospital, Multan remained functional during the month-long strike of the employees. Initially, the Mayo Hospital was almost fully functional when its administration managed treatment by deputing additional medics at the OPDs and indoor wards, he said. However, the movement for strike gained momentum when the health department terminated some of the protesting medics during the last one week or so, leading to closure of OPDs and indoor wards of the Mayo Hospital.

The Punjab Institute of Cardiology was among the health facilities where low patient ratio was reported. During analysis, the figures obtained from the PIC showed that it registered a maximum of 240 patients at the OPD on Oct 28 during strike against average number 1,000 on a routine day.

On the other hand, a small-scale hospital – Said Mitha Hospital Lahore – attended 1,393 patients the same day at the OPD, showing the impact of the strike at the mega hospitals of Punjab and suffering of poor patients.

The Mayo Hospital registered the highest number of patients - 5,432 – the same day. It was 1,698 at the Services Hospital, another stronghold of the young doctors.

The official claimed that the striking doctors would cover the cameras with pieces of cloth or tapes before locking up the rooms. They got hold of DVRs installed in the control rooms of hospitals and deleted the recordings, he said.

He said the role of some senior medics also came under discussion in the health department meetings.

The official said the SH&ME department had decided to draft a new rotation policy to transfer some senior medics from Lahore to the other districts of the province, especially south Punjab, for “indirectly backing” the strike.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2019