LAHORE, April 16: Young doctors observed a complete strike on Monday at public sector health facilities in the provincial capital and stopped work at OPDs and some indoor departments.
Meanwhile, a meeting between officials of the health department and representatives of the Young Doctors Association (YDA), Punjab chapter, to settle the issue of ‘controversial’ transfers of medical officers and postgraduate trainees remained inconclusive.
At least four-hour heated debate in the meeting held at Allama Iqbal Medical College here on Monday brought no relief to the patients, returning home without getting treatment from public hospitals.
The diagnostic facilities remained suspended, operations were delayed and patients visiting the emergency departments for routine check up owing to closure of OPDs were asked to re-visit the infirmaries after end of the strike.
Sources said senior doctors refused to work in the absence of the striking doctors at OPDs on the plea that they were neither taken on board by the YDA before going on strike or by the health department on the issue of transfers of young doctors.
Interestingly, the representatives of other major stakeholders, including the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and the Medical Teachers Association, Punjab, were not invited to the meeting headed by health special secretary Dawood Khan Bareech to address the serious issues despite knowing that the strike was leading to a new ‘health crisis’ with the passage of time.
According to an insider, the YDA representative pointed out in the meeting some anomalies/irregularities in the large-scale transfers.
The association also disclosed names of several postgraduate trainees, who could not complete their training owing to their abrupt transfer.
Giving reference of the Jinnah Hospital alone, the YDA representatives said that 33 ad hoc and regular doctors were transferred from this health facility to accommodate 62 candidates selected on the recommendation of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC).
Of these 33, they said, six doctors were transferred from Jinnah Hospital’s ICU to the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC).
The all-of-sudden transfers of six trained doctors without consulting the ICU department head, has put the lives of critical patients at grave risk. Some of these doctors were yet to complete their training.
Giving another example, they said, Dr Muhammad Nauman was transferred to Orthopedic Surgery Unit-II of Jinnah Hospital as FCPS-II postgraduate trainee on January 1, 2012 for three-year training. He had been transferred to Government Mozang Hospital, Lahore, only after four months, destroying his whole academic future.
Similarly, they said, Dr Omer Draz, an anaesthetist, has been transferred from Jinnah Hospital to the Punjab Institute of Mental Health (PIMH), Lahore, where no surgery is done.
They also pointed out that Dr Muhammad Tariq, who was getting clinical training in oncology at Jinnah Hospital, has been transferred to the PIC. “Neither the PIC has any oncology department nor has it been recognised by the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan for oncology training. This transfer showed that health department was either playing joke with the doctors or has no basic information regarding transfers and postings, they said.
Mr Bareech agreed to review the pointed-out ‘wrong transfers’ soon and asked the YDA representatives to end their strike but the latter were not ready to give more time to the department to take ‘corrective’ measures.
On the occasion, the YDA also added to their demands list the issue of service structure for doctors and flatly refused to call their strike off till their all demands were accepted.
The insider said that after long debate, a proposal came from the YDA side, which was sufficiently acceptable to health officials.
Under this proposal, the YDA demanded termination of all ad hoc doctors working in public sector hospitals of the province to create space to accommodate PPSC-recommended doctors. The YDA representatives said the health department should first target ad hoc doctors for termination on the basis of their length of service.
“Those ad hoc doctors who are working for the last five years or so should be terminated first and appointed to district hospitals,” a YDA representative told the meeting.
Later, he further said, the posts lying vacant at the public sector teaching institutions should be identified and made public.
Then these vacant posts should be filled by appointing rest of the PPSC-recommended doctors.
The YDA leader demanded that transfers of regular medical officers or those postgraduate trainees, who could not complete their trainings but had been transferred, should be cancelled immediately. The proposal was later endorsed by other YDA leaders.The special secretary showed his interest in the proposal and promised to take it up with other officials of the department.
When contacted, Mr Bareech said though the meeting remained inconclusive, the matter would be resolved in forthcoming meeting(s) with the YDA.
When asked about flaws in transfers of medical officers and postgraduate trainees, he said that human error could not be ruled out in the process.
He said that the health department committed mistakes as the lists were prepared by the principals of teaching hospitals, who had complete service record of the transferred doctors.