PESHAWAR: The government has ordered withdrawal of all disciplinary proceedings against members of Grand Health Alliance, who had observed 47-day strike against the implementation of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019 and non-implementation of Supreme Court’s directives regarding illegal appointments made in the medical teaching institutions.

The health department on Wednesday ordered stopping disciplinary action initiated against GHA members for closing down hospitals from September 27 to November 12 last year that had brought health services at 1,500 facilities, employing 45,000 workers, to a halt.

The order said that in line with the chief minister’s directives, actions including transfers, registration of FIRs, suspension or termination of training or services of the doctors, nurses and paramedics for strike might be stopped and no further action might be taken against them.

The salaries of the staff withheld during strike might be released from the day of resuming work, it added.

Order seems goodwill gesture of new health minister

The order said that health employees including trainee medical officers might be reverted and reinstated in the services or training as the case might be.

The order comes as goodwill move from the new health minister towards GHA.

The leaders of alliance are optimistic that Shahram Khan Tarakai, the new health minister, will resolve their issues.

The health workers had called off their protest after a meeting with the chief minister, who had formed a committee with provincial law minister as its head to look into the demands of the protesting health employees.

In May last year, the employees’ strike lasted for about seven days after which the government formed two committees to resolve the issues amicably.

The same happened in March when the strike continued for over a week and was called off on the government’s intervention.

The Provincial Doctors Association has welcomed the decision that will let off the hook 150 health workers, who had either been transferred or face court’s cases or their pays have been stopped.

However, critics say that the government has buckled down to pressure despite frequent strikes by health employees that affect only patients.

The members of the alliance have been protesting against the ‘illegal’ appointments in the medical teaching institutions and government’s plan to enforce Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019.

During all the strike, the government faced public anger over closure of health facilities, which stayed shut almost for two months in 2019.

Prof Nausherwan Burki, the main architect of the ruling PTI’s reform agenda is chairman of Prime Minister Task Force on Health.

A senior member of GHA said the government was helpless as it was Dr. Burki, who wielded the actual authority when it came to implementing RDHA that was passed by provincial assembly in September.

Prof Burki recently reiterated to Dawn that there would be no looking back and the RDHA would be implemented at all costs, protests by health workers notwithstanding.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2020