Islamabad:The Young Doctors Association (YDA) of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) brought the wheel of patient care to a grinding halt here on Tuesday to express resentment over “the government’s failure to honour its commitments with respect to revision of pay scales and service structure, and regularisation of doctors working on contract basis.”
The protesting doctors skipped the Outpatient Departments (OPDs) of all components of PIMS including the OPD of the main hospital, Children’s Hospital, Maternal and Child Health Centre, and the Burn Centre from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Even though critical and emergency care services remained unaffected by the strike, all elective surgeries were postponed to the consternation of patients. Joined by some senior doctors, the hospital’s post-graduate trainee doctors stood outside the Administration Block all day, raising slogans in favour of their demands and against the government’s slackness. It may be recalled that several patients in Punjab lost their lives when the strike turned into a nationwide movement in March. The doctors have once again announced to continue their strike till such time that the government issues a notification on the subject.
“Our demands were accepted by the government back in March 2010. The prime minister made an announcement to this effect on the floor of the House. We now expect the government to fulfil its promise so that we get our salaries in accordance with new scales from next month,” YDA President Dr. Sajid articulated. He appealed to the prime minister to implement his announcement by issuing a notification without further loss of time.
The doctors first observed a strike to press for their demands on March 25. The strike ended on April 5 when the then Secretary Health Nargis Sethi, while addressing a press conference, promised a positive outcome within a week’s time. “Whatever decision is taken after discussions with the Finance and Establishment Divisions, will take effect from July 1,” Nargis had then stated.
She appreciated the manner in which both the young doctors as well as the government mutually honoured each other’s request. Nargis also added that the initiative had been taken at the behest of the president and prime minister, who had issued directives for immediate resolution of the ongoing crisis and resumption of patient services at all federal government hospitals.
When questioned about the fate of patients, Dr. Sajid said, “We ourselves are fed up of holding strikes because such protests not only tarnish the overall image of doctors, but also increase the sufferings of patients who are already in pain. But believe me, we have no other alternative. We are helpless. Nobody listens to us unless we embark on a strike.”
As many as 5,000 patients are examined in the over-burdened OPDs of PIMS every day. The YDA later had a meeting with the hospital’s management led by its executive director Dr. Mehmood Jamal. “The administration has assured to communicate our demands to the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD), under which hospitals are functioning in the post-devolution set-up,” Dr. Sajid informed. The YDA president added that both the Federal Government Services Hospital as well as the Sheikh Zayed Hospital, which did not participate in the protest on Tuesday, would finalize their strategies for participation from tomorrow.
Talking to this scribe, a disgruntled senior doctor expressed his feelings in the following words: “PIMS is a wonderful institution that has a wealth of clinical and specialized human resources at its disposal. But truth be told, this institution has been maimed beyond recognition, primarily on account of the failure of the administrative leadership. We are totally fed up of this everyday ‘tamaasha’ (drama).”
Another senior doctor clarified: “I am neither for, nor against, any particular individual holding a senior position in the administrative hierarchy. Yet, the frequent disruption of patient services at PIMS-thanks to the rising culture of protests and strikes in this country-is extremely regretful. Even doctors who want to work are prevented from doing so. There is absolutely no regard for the miseries that patients have to encounter during these strikes.”
“Why does the government spring into action only after doctors, nurses, paramedics, or even non-medical staff embark on strikes? When the PM had made a pledge on the floor of the House, what is taking the government so long to notify revision of salaries and service structure and regularisation of doctors working on contract? If the government is really sincere about alleviating the sufferings of poor patients, why can’t it prevent a crisis situation by instituting timely action?” All these questions were raised by the protesting doctors, as they dispersed, only to continue their strike for the second consecutive day on Wednesday.The news.