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LAHORE, June 28: The Punjab government invoked on Thursday the Essential Services Act of 1958 for the employees of the Health Department to ensure uninterrupted healthcare facilities to the patients who have been facing a lot of problems on account of doctors’ strike for the last 11 days.

The Essential Services Act, 1958 has been invoked  for a period of one month initially.

The step was taken after negotiations between health authorities and doctors hit a deadlock owing to, what the government circles say, ‘unjust’ demands of medics in the proposed service structure for all four cadres of doctors.

Special Assistant to Chief Minister on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique said the act would help minimise sufferings of the patients.

Under the act, doctors are bound to be present at the place of duty and any violation is considered a crime, he said.

A senior official of the health department told this reporter that the act barred the doctors from taking part in political or union activities.

Quoting the act, he said, “The act would be applicable on the employee who disobeys any lawful order given in the course of such employment, or attempts to persuade any person to disobey any such order, or without reasonable excuse abandons such employment or abstains from work, or departs from any area specified in an order under sub-section (1) of section 4 without the consent of the government or the authority making that order”.

He said the head of any institute may recommend dismissal of service of a doctor or other employee on violation besides initiating prosecution in the court of law through police against him which may result in a one-year jail term if violation is proved.

Another health department official said the institution heads had been authorized to dismiss from service any employee found absent from duty without solid reason.

He said no employee could go on strike or leave his place of posting or duty or take part in any other activity which created hurdles in the provision of healthcare services to the patients.

ORDER: The Health Secretary under the Punjab Essential Services Act 1958, has ordered that all employees of the teaching hospitals working under administrative control of Government of the Punjab, including house officers, PG trainees, medical officers, women medical officers, demonstrators, senior medical officers, registrars, senior registrars, consultants, senior consultants, chief consultants, additional principal medical officers, additional principal women medical officers, principal medical officers, principal women medical officers, assistant professors and associate professors shall be on duty with immediate effect according to the duty roster of their respective institution/hospital without any delay.

They shall perform their duties as assigned to them by their respective heads of institution/medical superintendent/immediate supervisor, says a handout.