Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Doctors’ strike: The other side of the picture

Published Jul 05, 2012 04:15pm


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

The ongoing doctors’ strike has received a largely negative response from a large section of the society. The narrative of both sides’ i.e doctors and non-doctors is not only different but also opposite. Both sides find it hard to believe the other while siding with their comrades. Doctors, who have suffered for all these years due to the poor policies of successive governments, find it easy to justify going on strikes; while the non-doctors are of the view that doctors should not violate their oaths and should resume work as soon as possible. I have already written in detail from a doctor's perspective and it would be unfair not to present the other side of the story.

In this scorching hot season, with 10-12 hours of load shedding daily, tempers are bound to be on edge. Couple this with the news that doctors, who are supposed to be present for their patients, have stopped working for the sake of pay raises and cars, privileges and 'izzat' – outrage is a justified response. The news of many people dying due to a lack of medical treatment adds fuel to fire. How dare these so-called messiahs turn rogue and end up killing the people that they are supposed to save. Is the life of patients more sacred than BPS-18? Is closing down PIC (Punjab Institute of Cardiology), the only specialist cardiac care centre in a radius of about 200 kilometers, a really good idea? Why do the doctors think they are so special when other professionals are working without the privileges that they demand? (here is a comparison). Why so many strikes, all of a sudden in last 2 years? (thrice in the years 2011-12) Are doctors’ rights more important than patients’ rights? Why do the poor people have to suffer because of inadequacies of the rulers?

As a young doctor, it is very hard for me to reply adequately to all these questions. I have been actively engaging people asking these questions on the social media and have tried to clear as many misconceptions as I humanly could. I've previously written about the issue of morality of a doctors' strike, the fact that closing OPDs does not lead to a loss of lives and that this strike is about service structure formation, not for an increase in pays. What I can't justify is the loss of innocent lives. I have lost all excuses to hide behind as human life is a sacred trust, which shouldn't be used as leverage in this war of egos. I vociferously condemn closure of emergency services, both as a health professional and as a human being.

During the above mentioned social media interactions, I've been branded a killer, a butcher, anti PML-N troll (???), murderer and similar epithets. People have expressed joy on the news of doctors getting arrested/tortured/beaten to death, because they think it is karma (do bad things and bad things will happen to you). I have been advised to either leave the profession or get used to it. As a young doctor, I feel hopeless and depressed about the dead lock that has developed between the Punjab government and doctors after the 'brute force' attack on a doctors hostel and subsequent arrests. My juniors have been asking me what the future holds for them and for our profession, more questions to which I have got no answers. My heart goes out to the arrested people including two of the most soft-spoken and brilliant doctors who helped me throughout my time at medical school, having to share cells with convicted terrorists in Kot Lakhpat Jail. I also find it hard imagine the feelings of the families of the arrested doctors.

As a human being, I am outraged at watching the poorest of poor (who form the majority of patients at government hospitals) suffer at the hands of weather, WAPDA and now, doctors. Doctors are fast losing the battle for the hearts of people whom they are supposed to serve.

A big role has been played by the government of Punjab in propaganda-mongering against doctors, with millions of rupees from the public exchequer spent on advertisements in the media against doctors. The State has successfully transferred the burden of its own inadequacies (only one doctor present for 18 thousand people, six health secretaries changed in the last four years, no health minister for the last four years, budget allocation of 1.8 per cent for health) to the doctors and has not budged an inch on its stance regarding the demands of doctors.

This stand-off needs to end now and it needs to end fast, for the sake of the people who visit hospitals from far flung areas due to a lack of basic medical services in their areas, for the patients who come to OPDs every week because they cannot afford drugs, for the kids suffering from horrible diseases, for the unattended patients that are loaded off to emergencies by rescue services. They don’t have anyone to take care of their health but us, the doctors.

The writer is a medical student with an interest in History, Political Economy and Literature and blogs here. You can follow him @abdulmajeedabid.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

Author Image

The writer is a medical student with an interest in History, Political Economy and Literature. He blogs here.

You can follow him @abdulmajeedabid.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (18) Closed

Adil Jadoon Jul 05, 2012 05:22pm
Doctors cannot strike! If they do they are mere tradesmen and should be treated as such.
Asad Irfan Jul 05, 2012 03:39pm
It is very hard to feel the feelings of families of affected doctors, why don,nt their families and parents ask them not to do brutal actions, not to take lives and what about the families of those who,s mother died of heart attack and doctor said i am on strike i will not treat her.that doctor should be burnt in fire. if doctors want to go strike why don,nt they go after 2pm,after their duties? why don,nt they close private clinics.? why have they taken salary of last month when they were on strike? they are compelling the patients to get private treatment from them. Their greed is insatiable.
farhanshahidkhan Jul 05, 2012 02:56pm
The comparison referred by you and obviously prepared by a fellow doc is misleading. Civil judge is a different thing altogether. The burden of decision is a very high one and a judge needs to be adequately looked after by state. Please stop comparing hardwork only in hours. Jobs cannot be compared simply in the number of hours worked. And in this regard, military people work the hardest as they have months and months long stint on duties away from their families and they are paid half what docs are paid. So please, come back to your jobs and work hard for your future
Khalid Jul 05, 2012 07:24pm
well said
humma Jul 07, 2012 04:07pm
thanks to show us the other side of the picture,..
karamba Jul 05, 2012 05:01pm
A more balanced posting this time. I believe doctors should be given a decent honourable salary and priveleges as is their due but it should be balanced with commitment and accountability. It is not quantity but quality of service that is important which is why the whole health service needs to be revamped.It should not be that government service is a way of gaining extra priveleges through the tax-payer while dedicating oneself to making money through private means.
True Ravian Jul 06, 2012 04:57am
u seems confused ..Like all the others..
santi dhar Jul 06, 2012 03:03am
Agree with most of things said. I remember in 1997-98, shahbaz Sharif on his in-announced visits to mayo hospital use to fire junior doctors for asking patients to buy meds. These medicines including TPAs( medicines used in heart attack and very expansive) were not available in the hospital. Public should understand it is impossible for govt. to supply free medicines ( especially when only 1.8% of budget is reserved for healthcare) and if PM himself has to visit and fire house officers, that means govt. is incapable, and does not know how to govern. I know many physician who used to donate part of their salaries for poor patients, but public still thinks, physicians sell these medicines in black market.
Tawheed Jul 06, 2012 03:20am
The doctors have a right to demand this restructuring. And I think they are going about it in the correct way. In this country, no one listens to you if you speak to them nicely and present arguments to convince them. Force is required.
aaa Jul 06, 2012 01:34pm
I work in Norway which has the best system in the world believe me its nowhere near working in a govt. hospital in Pakistan. So please dont compare. You work 2 hours extra you get extra paid. It is easy to be comitted in such environments. You get immediate financial benefits. It is easy to talk about quality when on govt. level its made sure that quality is maintained. Doctors working abroad are not angels they are equally human and should be humble in their approach to doctors who do not have the previliges they enjoy. Last but not the least go and ask around in any city what does a doctor earn in a private clinic. Its minimal when compared to salaries abroad. In 2002 the starting was 8thousand rupees in a private clinic including nights. Those doctors are rare who earn alot. And that is their good luck.
omair Jul 06, 2012 04:14am
Not really written about the other side of the picture my friend. You are effectively reiterating your stance
Muhammad Awais Jul 06, 2012 05:44am
Dear Asad, I am not a doctor I am a Engineer but I can analyse what's happening here? first of all I would like to give the answer what u said that "why don,nt they close private clinics.?" Answer: this strike is by Young doctors who have no private clinics instead they have PG training stipend. 2nd "why have they taken salary of last month when they were on strike?" Ans: do u know when they call off emergency ,,,,,after the crack down by Punjab Police who forcefully arrest and kicked them out of hospitals n Hostels and also ladies doctors from Labor rooms. so all the causalities happened after that bcz doctors have to vacate to save their on lives , so they took the salaries before of this when no patient died as they were examined. its very easy to point out but difficult to accept the reality that we as a nation are very short tempter persons and basically corrupt by nature. May Allah bless our nation and bring peace quickly. Aameen Regards, Awais yahya
farhanshahidkhan Jul 06, 2012 06:56am
I really salute you man. You have been only voice of reason among all the group of docs. Best of luck for your career
alitaj Jul 06, 2012 07:35am
Very well written and balanced.
Salman Uppal Jul 06, 2012 09:09am
is the burden of a decision is greater than the burden of a life??????????
Dr. Waseem Jul 06, 2012 08:22am
Very true . We are doctors , we took an oath to serve humanity . We love our patients , care for them day and night . When we have dire emergencies back at home , we give preference to our patients . we compromise on our wishes , our life styles , we also have a heart , want to sit back home and relax with our families on Eid and festive occasions . We have been sacrificing but do we need to sacrifice our families too ? These are our well deserved rights , not just the government but the whole nation owes it to us .
aaa Jul 06, 2012 08:51am
10 years ago when i first became a doctor i first became aware of the fact of the real situation of doctors here i will not go into their work. Even in studies the understanding never came. First went up the bubble that doctors earn alot and do nothing. That was something i was expecting as this is the only thing i had always heard. You give only your 5 minutes to a patients and take the fee. This was the first thing that was proven wrong. Work was far more than i had expected and nobody but doctors knew this or wanted to understand.
Imran Ghayasuddin Jul 10, 2012 04:28am
Basically the problem in our society emerges when everybody is asking for their rights and forgets what society had already given them.