Top medics accused of fanning protest to settle score with govt

Published June 25, 2024
Patients and their relatives outside the Services Hospital OPD due to a strike by young doctors. — White Star
Patients and their relatives outside the Services Hospital OPD due to a strike by young doctors. — White Star

LAHORE: As the strike by the medics at the government hospitals entered its 10th day, coinciding with the deadline set by the Punjab government to end the agitation, some reports emerging from the health facilities suggested that various heads of the institutes, including the vice chancellors and medical teachers, were fanning the protest in order to settle their “scores with the PML-N government”.

They began to support the strike when the provincial government was reportedly suggested by the top health authorities to remove some under-performing VCs of the public sector medical universities of Punjab and replace them with the ‘dedicated’ officers having sound profile.

An official privy to the development said the government was also told that several senior doctors, deans/heads of the departments, VCs and principals were sympathetic to a rival political party and a large number of members of the Young Doctors Association (YDA) Punjab was also allegedly getting directions from the the same party to create unrest at the hospitals.

He said these health professionals were using the YDA and other associations as “weapon” to promote the culture of ‘politically-motivated’ agitations in the government hospitals of Punjab.

Reports suggest they started supporting strike when govt thought of removing ‘under-performing’ VCs

Similarly, the leaders of the YDA and other associations were using the patients as “shield” to blackmail the health authorities in the state-run hospitals.

According to the estimated figures, more than 400,000 poor and deserving patients who visited the OPDs of major and other teaching hospitals in Lahore were denied treatment by the young medics during the last 10 days of the strike.

On average, nearly 7,000 patients used to daily visit the OPDs of the leading teaching hospitals including Mayo, Services, Jinnah and Lahore General Hospital.

The official said the situation was also alarming at hospitals in other parts of the province.

He said the complete closure of the OPDs exposed the inability of the health authorities in restoring the healthcare services to thousands of poor and deserving patients.

There were reports that the YDA members took rounds in groups, forced the poor patients to leave the hospitals and thrashed many of them on insisting treatment, completely rendering all the public sector hospitals of the province paralysed.

The strike call was initially given by the YDA Punjab and then all the major associations and societies of the medical fraternity including Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) joined the young medics in the aftermath of the arrests of the principal and other senior medics at the Sahiwal Teaching Hospital (STH).

Another fact was that the heads of the institutes and those holding senior positions in the management of the state-run hospitals did nothing to mediate between the associations and the government in resolving the issue to end sufferings of the poor patients.

Some officials said the heads of the institutes were supposed to play a key role to bridge the gap between the health providers and the government to defuse the tension.

However, they said, most of them were either playing on ‘both ends of the pitch’ or acting as silent spectators.

On the other hand, the YDA leaders and the health authorities held meetings separately, vowed to stick to their positions.

Talking to the media here on Monday, YDA President Dr Shoaib Niazi alleged that Punjab Health Secretary Ali Jan was allegedly involved in corruption in the name of revamping the hospitals across the province.

He said several serious complaints had emerged about the embezzlement of billions of rupees since the health secretary led the renovation and revamp programme.

Dr Niazi alleged that the health secretary was misleading the CM Punjab by creating a gap between the health professionals and the government to divert attention from his corruption.

“We want negotiations with the government but its core team comprising health ministers and the secretary is playing dirty role in this respect,” the YDA Punjab president said.

He demanded an impartial inquiry into the Sahiwal teaching hospital incident and punishment to those health officers whose negligence led to the deaths of children.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2024

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