PESHAWAR: Grand Health Alliance, a syndicate of health employees including doctors, nurses, paramedics and other staff, ended its strike after 47 days in a classic replay of the past two protests that culminated in similar fashion putting the patients away from seeking free treatment at public hospitals.
The boycott of duty was started by about 45,000 health employees in over 1,500 government hospitals in the province when they were beaten up by police at Lady Reading Hospital ahead of a protest march towards the provincial assembly building in September.
The province-wide facilities, supposed to receive patients and offer treatment for Rs1, didn’t provide services of free medical checkups t people as the out patients departments remained shut and accident and emergency departments worked as usual. However, the members of the alliance continued to provide essential services to the critically-ill and injured patients during the strike.
Approximately, more than one million patients visit government hospitals in the province on daily basis.
Ministerial committee formed to address reservations of doctors
In May last, a protest started by medics ended when the government agreed to form a parliamentary committee, the meeting of which never held. The protesters joined duties after 15 days.
Dr Alamgir Yousafzai, the chairman of the alliance, told journalists that the protest was ended after formation of a ministerial committee by the chief minister on Sunday.
The model was no different from March this year when patients were kept away from medical services by strikers only to call it off after successful negotiation with government.
The main demand of the alliance is revoking the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Regional and District Health Authorities Act (RDHA), 2019, which it argues is meant to privatise all hospitals after failure of the Medical Teaching Institutions Reforms Act, 2015, which has not brought any improvement in teaching hospitals during the last five years. The law was passed in September.
The protesting medics also sought removal of Prof Nausherwan Burki, the architect of MTI and RDHA, and Health Minister Dr Hisham Inamullah Khan, who was accused of thrashing a general surgeon at Khyber Teaching Hospital five months ago.
Prof Burki, the mind behind establishment of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi, was tasked by PTI chief Imran Khan to bring health reforms when his party formed government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2015.
Now Prof Burki is chairman of Prime Minister Health Task Force. He is preoccupied with federal health system, including regulations, medical education and overall healthcare situation in the country.
The GHA members also feared disciplinary action started by the health department against those involved in strike.
The protesters, however, said they opposed the law because it would render their services contractual. “There is no looking back as far as our demands are concerned,” said a leader of GHA.
He said that the members of the alliance were tortured, baton-charged, jailed, suspended and subjected to pay cuts but they stood resolute and would again show the same zeal and zest in case the government backed out of its promise.
The only sufferers of the frequent withdrawal of month-long services were the people, who banked on government hospitals for their health needs.
In all strikes, OPDs, operation theatres and investigation come to halt, especially at the MTIS where patients are on waiting list to undergo surgeries.
Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2019