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TAXILA, June 25: On their failure to get treatment at the out-patient departments (OPDs) of the public hospitals for over a week now, a number of patients and their attendants said on Monday that doctors, despite their tall claims of serving humanity, were working only to further their own interests.

With the strike of young doctors completing eight consecutive days, the panic among the patients’ attendants at the OPDs of health centres including Tehsil Headquarters hospital, rural health centres and basic health units of Taxila and Hassanabdal, was more visible. They were forced to run from pillar to post to get medical help for their near and dear ones.

The physicians at the government-run hospitals were seen equally indifferent while refusing to attend helpless patients in a bid to register their protest over the government’s indifferent attitude in addressing their demand for improved service structure.

The patients and their attendants alleged that it was surprising that doctors were only denying treatment in public hospitals and not at their private clinics. Many preferred to stay away from the public hospitals in anticipation of the unavailability of healthcare services, while others – not-so-lucky ones – received a double blow as hundreds of operations were postponed in the hospitals partly due to the strike and partly due to long hours of loadshedding.

The closure of OPDs naturally increased the number of patients visiting the emergency wards where the panicking patients strongly criticised the doctors.

Tahir Shah, a patient’s attendant at THQ hospital Taxila said, “The strike is only affecting the poor patients who have no choice but to come to government hospitals.”

Zeenat Bibi, an elderly woman who came from a far-flung area of Gari Afghanan for getting treatment said, “I have to travel for over 22-km to reach the THQ hospital Taxila but I am stunned to see that the doctors are on strike and only attending indoor patients or emergency cases.” She said the hospital was the only ray of hope for the poor patients like her.

Shazia Begum, another woman who had brought her ailing daughter from a rural area of Khurram Paracha and was denied treatment, called upon the Chief Minister Punjab to immediately look into the matter and play his role to end grievances of the poor masses.

Attiqueur Rehman, President Shabab-i-Milli Taxila chapter while talking to Dawn also came down hard on the striking doctors and alleged they were playing with the lives of the patients. He further said the poor patients were dying at the hands of the so-called ‘messiahs’ of the society.

He also demanded registration of criminal cases against the protesting doctors.

Medical Superintendent (MS) Tehsil Headquarters hospital Dr Mohammad Shahid while talking Dawn said, “Doctors have also started realising that poor patients are suffering because of the strike in the OPDs and we are thinking of adopting a course of action through which we can accommodate patients,” said.

Meanwhile, a local spokesperson for the Young Doctors’ Association Punjab – that gave the call for the strike – Dr Niazi told Dawn the doctors did not want to create problems for the people visiting the government-run hospitals “but in present circumstances, we will continue the strike till our demands are met”.

He blamed Punjab government for forcing the young doctors take the extreme step to get their demands accepted.

Meanwhile, the YDA members condemned the provincial government for playing in the hands of the bureaucracy and backing off from its promises.