KARACHI: The joint action committee of the nursing staff, paramedics and members of Doctor’s Association representing the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) held a demonstration on Saturday, demanding implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision announced in Jan, 2019.

It’s the second protest by the staff within two weeks.

The protesters called upon the federal government to implement the decision and end ‘ad-hocism’ at the JPMC prevailing over a decade and put the institution back on track.

The association clarified that their demands were not in discord with what the Grand Health Alliance of Sindh was asking for. However, the matter regarding doctors’ transfer at the JPMC and the National Institute of Health (NICH) was a more complicated matter.

“Therefore, no such action should be taken till the legal status of JPMC and its employees is settled and their due rights given,” said Dr Naeem Khan, president of the association.

The delay in implementing the court’s decision was an extreme violation of employees’ fundamental rights, it was claimed. Therefore, the matter must be resolved on an urgent basis, he added.

According to the association, over a thousand posts have fallen vacant over a decade following the retirement of various staff members that has seriously affected the functioning of the hospital. Moreover, promotions pending for a prolonged period have created a lot of frustration among the serving staff.

The protestors appealed to the prime minister to uphold the rule of law and honour the verdict of the apex court. They also called upon the Supreme Court to get its decision implemented otherwise the public would lose faith in the justice system.

It may be recalled that the JPMC, along with National Institute of Child Health (NICH) and National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD), have been facing administrative uncertainty since 2011 when their employees sought the Sindh High Court’s intervention against the likely devolution of these institutions to the provincial government under the 18th Amendment.

The matter remained pending till 2016 when the court ordered that the control of these hospitals would remain with the federal government. This judgment, however, was suspended by the Supreme Court the same year on an appeal filed by the Sindh government.

In Jan 2019, the court rejected the plea of the Sindh government and ordered the federal government to take control of the JPMC, the NICH in Karachi and Sheikh Zayed Postgraduate Medical Institute in Lahore. Moreover, the court had stipulated a 90-day period for the transition.

The federal government, however, is yet to implement this order. The delay, according to media reports, has been due to the federal government’s consideration to hand over the hospitals to the provincial governments. This couldn’t happen because of strained relations between the two governments.

Last year, JPMC and NICVD employees filed a contempt of court petition against the federation in the Supreme Court and the federation agreed to implement the judgement in six weeks and gave an undertaking in writing to the court, but did not implement it.

“The federal cabinet on 3rd March 2020 in complete disregard of the Constitution refused again to obey the judgement of the court in a contemptuous way perhaps to undermine the judiciary. Not only that the federal secretary Ministry of National Health Services was summarily removed from the post on 4th March for pleading implementation of Supreme Court judgement,” says a letter written this year by JPMC employees to the chief justice.

The employees have recently re-submitted their contempt of court petition whose hearing is yet to take place.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2020