LAHORE: Scores of doctors, nurses and paramedics launched a protest outside the Punjab Assembly against the Medical Teaching Institutions (MTI) Act here on Monday.
They reached the Faisal Chowk under the banner of the Grand Health Alliance after they were informed that the Act was being tabled in the assembly to get it passed for enforcement at the state-run hospitals.
The doctors and nurses marched towards the Punjab Assembly in groups from various government hospitals of the provincial capital on the call of the GHA.
As they tried to enter the Punjab Assembly building, a police contingent stopped them saying that the Lahore High Court had already barred them (protesters) from such Activities.
Giving a reference in this regard, the police officials told the GHA office-bearers that LHC through an order last year had strictly barred them from withdrawing their services and warned them of Action for violating the court directions.
Nurses scuffle with lady police in a bid to enter assembly building
Some witnesses said the GHA office-bearers present there ignored the police officers’ request and provoked the protesters to make their forced entry into the building.
Following the directions of the GHA leaders, the doctors, nurses and paramedics tried to breach the security layer which led to brief scuffles between the two sides.
Some mobile phone footages showed the lady police personnel and the protesting nurses scuffling.
As the police increased deployment, the nurses and doctors moved back and staged a sit-in on the main road by blocking traffic on both sides of the main artery.
They raised slogans against the Punjab government as well as the health authorities and threatened to expand the scope of protest.
Addressing on the occasion, the GHA leaders said the health authorities were trying to get the MTI Act passed from the Punjab Assembly without addressing their reservations on the bill.
Meanwhile, a committee headed by law minister Raja Basharat held a meeting with the representatives of the GHA giving them a sympathetic hearing.
Health secretary Nabeel Awan and other respective officers were also present there while GHA chairman Dr Salman Haseeb attended the session besides representatives of nurses and paramedics from the protesters.
The health department officials on the occasion expressed their utter displeasure saying that a few doctors were misleading their colleagues and nurses for ‘political gains.’The health department officials said neither the hospitals were being privatised nor any such proposal was pending.
The MTI Act was proposed to improve healthcare delivery keeping in view sufferings of the poor and deserving patients at the government hospitals, they said.
However, the GHA leaders rejected the claim of the health authorities saying that the officials had held out a commitment that the MTI Act would not be implemented.
As the meeting remained inconclusive, the protesters dispersed after some hours.
The protest caused a great deal of inconvenience for the motorists due on The Mall and other roads leading to it.
The GHA later held a meeting and announced that they would block main roads outside the state-run hospitals to extend the scope of agitation.
Published in Dawn, March 10th, 2020