KARACHI: Healthcare workers continued their protest at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) for the second consecutive day, causing immense suffering to hundreds of patients reporting either for elective medical procedures and tests or medical consultation at the outpatient department (OPD).

The institute is the largest tertiary cardiac care facility in the public sector that caters to patients from other provinces as well.

Sources said protesters, mainly the paramedics and home-keeping staff, kept the main gate of the hospital closed for the second day and allowed only ambulances to enter the hospital premises.

OPD sections were also closed down by protesting employees, who chanted slogans in favour of their demands that included release of Covid-19 risk allowance, professional health allowance, regularisation of contractual employees and a notification on pending promotions.

Protesting employees allow only ambulances to enter the health facility

The sources said unrest among the staff had been prevailing for quite some time due to delays on financial matters pertaining to employees’ salaries and other benefits.

Speaking to Dawn, a spokesperson for the NICVD said emergency services had remained opened for two days despite the protest and that the management would meet demands of the protesting employees as soon as the government grant was released.

“Unfortunately, patients seeking OPD services and elective procedures couldn’t be attended to. Our negotiations with the protesting employees have been going on and they have been assured that they would be given all pending allowances as soon as the grant from the Sindh government arrives,” he said.

The management had never opposed payment of allowances and paid the same to the staff last month, he added.

Graft allegations rejected

The spokesperson, however, rejected the allegations of corruption raised by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Haleem Adil Sheikh the other day, as completely baseless.

“No one’s salary in NICVD is Rs6 million. The budget the PTI leader talked about is not for one hospital but for 10 NICVD hospitals and 22 chest pain units, which have been established across the province, providing state-of-the-art cardiac treatment to everyone at their doorstep, totally free of cost,” he explained.

NICVD director Prof Nadeem Qamar, he pointed out, was appointed as the hospital’s head after the fulfilment of all legal requirements.

“All the staff, including the director, are performing their duties 24 hours a day in this dangerous situation of Covid-19 and providing uninterrupted modern heart treatment services to the people of the country in all 32 centres of NICVD.”

The institute, he said, started providing free of cost treatment in 2017 to adults as well as children. “Facilities are open for 24 hours a day. Last year, over 1.9 million patients benefited from medical services, including angioplasty and bypass procedure, for free.”

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2022

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