Thousands of patients suffer as hospital staff boycott OPDs across Sindh

Updated 12 Jun 2020

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Groups of protesting doctors and paramedical staff also observe hunger strike. — DawnNewsTV/File
Groups of protesting doctors and paramedical staff also observe hunger strike. — DawnNewsTV/File

KARACHI: Thousands of patients seeking consultation and medical intervention had to return home in sheer disappointment when they visited many government hospitals in Sindh on Thursday as house officers, doctors, paramedics and other support staff observed a boycott of outpatient department (OPD) duties on a call given by the recently formed Grand Health Alliance (GHA).

The alliance has vowed to continue the boycott till Monday.

In Hyderabad, OPDs at Liaquat University Hospital (LUH) as well as Bhitai, Kohsar, Paretabad and Qasimabad hospitals remained shut as protesting employees stayed away from work and joined demonstrations on the premises of their respective places of work.

Doctors did not enter OPDs adding to patients’ woes. Thousands of patients from within Hyderabad city and other districts had turned up at these hospitals as usual but had to return without being heard or examined by doctors.

Consultants from the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS) who sit at the LUH outpatient department also did not turn up.

Patients and their attendants kept waiting for several hours before returning home.

Groups of protesting doctors and paramedical staff also observed a token hunger strike.

Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) leaders Dr Lala Jaffar and Dr Murad Qureshi, Dr Roshan Chandio of the Young Doctors Association (YDA), paramedics’ leaders Latif Otho and Sharif Palari were among those who observed the token hunger strike and demonstrations.

At Bhitai Hospital, Latifabad, YDA’s Dr Saleem Masood, Dr Ramiz Rajput and Dr Fayyaz Magsi took part in the protest while at Kohsar Hospital YDA’s Dr Farrukh Raees, Dr Imtiaz Bhatti and others joined in the protest. They demanded health risk allowance for doctors and restoration of service structure for all health institutions’ employees.

They demanded that a separate Covid-19 isolation ward be established in LUH for paramedics and doctors in view of the number of doctors and paramedics contracting the contagion.

They said healthcare professionals should be provided ‘shuhada package’ and also personal protection equipment (PPE) besides N-95 masks.

GDA leaders said doctors and paramedics in Sindh should be given rights on par with their counterparts in other provinces.

They said they were front-line workers but government was ignoring them.

In Larkana, doctors and paramedics boycotted their duties in the central OPD of the Chandka Medical College Hospital (city block) and its allied hospitals for the acceptance of their 17-point charter of demands in response to a call given by the GHA.

They announced that a future course of action and strategy would be decided at a meeting to be held on Monday.

The protesting employees were led by YDA president Dr Irshad Ali Abro and CMCH Paramedics’ Association general secretary Munawwar Mangi.

After taking rounds in the hospital building raising slogans, the protesters assembled outside the central OPD, where the leaders spoke to them.

Mr Mangi vowed to continue the protest till Monday.

He said the GHA was formed to make the Sindh government grant risk allowance to house officers, young doctors, paramedics and supporting staff. He called for legislation for health insurance of all employees of this sector. He demanded a separate isolation ward for the employees contracting Covid-19.

The other demands presented during the rally included ensuring time-scale under a four-tier formula, promotion of paramedics, 20-50pc health professional allowances for nurses, paramedics and supporting staff.

The leaders called for regularisation of jobs of the staff working at the Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Trauma Centre at Karachi.

The GHA called for nationalisation of all private hospitals and promotion of the health workers of Peoples Primary Health Initiative (PPHI).

The OPD boycott was also observed in scores of government hospitals in Mirpurkhas, Naushahro Feroze, Sukkur, Jacobabad, Ghotki, Shikarpur and Kandhkot-Kashmore districts where health employees had been holding protest demonstrations and observing a two-hour strike every day for the acceptance of their demands.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2020