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Thursday Oct 31 2019

Doctors strike in Punjab affects Nawaz Sharif’s treatment

Fallout of healthcare crisis in hospitals has disturbed the protocol of VVIP treatment being extended to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Photo: File 

LAHORE: The Grand Health Alliance (GHA) extended strike to indoor wards of public sector hospitals across Punjab on Wednesday piling up miseries for patients with practical services delivery almost paralysed.

The fallout of healthcare crisis in hospitals disturbed the protocol of VVIP treatment being extended to the former premier Nawaz Sharif at the Services Hospital as doctors and medical staff withdrew their services to the high-profile patient.

The doctors were deputed at VVIP Block in three shifts to assist in Nawaz Sharif’s treatment. “The PG trainees, nurses and paramedics have withdrawn their duties from VVIP Block Wednesday in response to GHA’s call for boycott of services in indoor wards,” GHA Chairman Dr Salman Haseeb Chaudhry said talking to The News.

As soon as the doctors and medical staff abandoned their duties in VVIP Block, it inadvertently affected round-the-clock care of the patient. The extraordinary situation forced hospital administration to depute senior consultants and administrative doctors in the VVIP Block to ensure 24/7 treatment to the ailing ex-premier. No official word, however, to the media was given by the Services Hospital administration in this connection.

The young consultants, young doctors, nurses, paramedical staff and allied health professionals practically boycotted healthcare services, except emergency services, in public sector hospitals across the province. As 20 days strike earlier at OPDs and suspension of services at operation theatres and diagnostic laboratories failed to move provincial health authorities, the Grand Health Alliance extended protests indoors to give the PTI government the ‘taste of its own medicine’ to intensify protest against the Punjab Medical Teaching Institutions (Reforms) Act 2019, which is being termed an attempt to privatise public sector hospitals in the province.

As a result of ongoing strike, a patient died in the Lahore General Hospital due to alleged negligence of doctors, which led to a clash between the doctors and deceased patient’s relatives. The young doctors closed down LGH’s emergency ward late Wednesday night after at least five doctors were injured in the clash.

It is also learnt that Punjab government has refused to budge on GHA’s blackmailing tactics as it decided to press on with its policy to penalise the doctors, nurses and paramedical staff for disrupting healthcare services in hospitals.

Sources told The News that fresh lists of 125 doctors and 100 nurses and paramedics each have been recommended for Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education (SHC&ME) for initiating departmental action.

Meanwhile, infuriated over departmental action and disciplinary proceedings against protesting doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, the GHA leadership claimed that they had been forced by provincial government to spread their strike to indoor wards, as it had not just refused to accept their demands but also started victimisation of the protesting doctors and medical staff. The young doctors and allied staff stayed away from duties at OPDs, operation theaters, radiological and pathological labs and indoor wards of teaching hospitals including Mayo Hospital, Services Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Lahore General Hospital, Jinnah Hospital, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Shaikh Zayed Hospital, Punjab Institute of Cardiology in Lahore as well as other districts across the province.

The miseries of the poor patients increased due to lack of healthcare services in hospitals of Punjab. Several patients have to go to the private hospitals for elective procedures, which puts extra financial burden on the poor patients.

Visiting patients and their attendants have called upon the government to hold meaningful dialogues for ending prolonged strike that had paralysed service delivery at hospitals. Some suggested taking extreme action against protesters to put an end to such blackmailing tactics once for all.

A group of doctors and allied health staff in Jinnah Hospital declined to boycott their duties and were set to make an official announcement in medical superintendent’s office, which infuriated another group of GHA activists and they besieged the MS’ office. The protesting doctors continued siege to prevent possible announcement that, according to them, was an attempt by irrelevant persons to break the unity of protesters. They lamented that instead of talking to the stakeholders, the government was trying to use irrelevant persons to sabotage the movement launched for protecting rights not only of doctors and allied health staff but the poor patients.

On the other hand, GHA members from Punjab Institute of Cardiology announced that purely on humanitarian grounds, OPD’s free pharmacy would remain open. We are fighting for poor patients.

GHA Chairman Dr Salman Haseeb urged the government to end victimisation of protesting doctors, nurses and paramedical staff and resume meaningful dialogue through a high-powered committee to find a solution for it for restoring healthcare services in hospitals. “Such tactics will neither intimidate nor deter the medical community to back out from its primary demand of withdrawal of MTI Act,” he added. He threatened to further extend the strike to emergency wards to practically close down all healthcare services, but they will never accept the privatisation of public sector hospitals in the province.

Originally published in The News