LAHORE: Police have incorporated terrorism charges into the FIR registered against the suspects who had thrashed and injured a doctor at Children’s Hospital, after the death of a girl during treatment, a senior doctor told Dawn on Sunday, as the protests by medical practitioners across Punjab enter fifth day.
Doctors, nurses and paramedics have been on strike, leaving the outpatient departments (OPDs) of major public teaching hospitals closed, to condemn the assault on the duty doctor, Dr Saad Rafique. The family of the minor patient — a seven-year-old girl who died during treatment — beat Dr Rafique in the presence of other staff and left him badly injured.
A major demand of the protesting medics is that laws should be amended to ensure security for doctors at the state-run hospitals of the province to prevent such violence.
They said violence against healthcare providers in tertiary care government hospitals had become a serious hazard and a professional threat. They lamented that most incidents of verbal abuse and physical violence against young doctors went unnoticed.
Protests by medics across Punjab enter fifth day
The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), the Young Doctors Association (YDA) Punjab and the associations representing paramedics joined the agitation later and expanded the scope of protests from hospitals to the health department secretariat.
Against this backdrop, some important meetings were held exclusively to address the core issues related to the security of duty doctors.
The meeting was attended by the caretaker provincial health minister, Dr Javed Akram, and vice chancellors and principals of the teaching institutes.
Prof Dr Ashraf Nizami, president of PMA’s Lahore chapter, told Dawn on Sunday the protesters had put four main demands before health authorities and the heads of the government teaching institutes in the meeting.
One demand was to include the anti-terrorism charges in the FIR, which had already been lodged with the Naseerabad police station against the attackers. He said the demand had been addressed and the anti-terrorism charges had been included in the FIR.
Another demand was the protection of the healthcare providers of the state-run hospitals through legislation. “We have demanded the government authorities bring security ordinance to ensure safety and protection of the employees of the hospital,” Dr Nizami said.
Another demand was enhancing the role of the Punjab Healthcare Commission to prevent violence against doctors, he said, adding that the commission had failed to discharge its core responsibilities.
Talking about violence at Children’s Hospital Lahore, he said the administration of the institute had also left the doctor unattended when the suspects attacked Dr Saad.
In such cases, the on-duty additional and deputy medical superintendents must have intervened by calling the security staff to rescue the doctor, Dr Nizami said.
During the meeting, some young doctors lashed out at government officials for not making adequate security and safety measures for on-duty medics serving at tertiary care and other hospitals in Punjab.
They said that due to a high number of patients, the emergencies and OPDs of major government hospitals — including Mayo Hospital, Jinnah Hospital, Lahore General Hospital, Services Hospital, and the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital — had become vulnerable for doctors.
The YDA members shared some estimated data to give a gloomy picture of security gaps, saying that these massively burdened hospitals were catering to nearly 5,000 to 7,000 patients daily.
Besides, what aggravated the situation was the fact that every patient had five to 10 attendants who stayed at the hospital until the admission or treatment, the YDA said.
About the incident, the doctors said the attendants had overpowered Dr Saad Rafique, thrashed him badly and then subjected him to severe torture, leaving many profound injuries to his face and other body parts.
There were reports that the seven-year-old minor girl who died during treatment was the granddaughter of a police officer serving in Sindh.
Video clips that later went viral on social media showed the assailants dragging and torturing Dr Rafique, who was seen crying for help. The incident sparked agitation in medical community across the province.
Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2023