They’re protesting the Medical Teaching Institution Reforms by the govt
Young doctors have been on a strike against new government reforms across public hospitals in Punjab. Their protest entered the 13th day on Tuesday.
The doctors have shut down OPDs, wards, laboratories and operation theatres of government teaching hospitals in some cities across the province. Nurses and paramedics are also part of the strike.
Their protest is against the new Medical Teaching Institution Reforms Ordinance the PTI government plans to introduce in public hospitals.
SAMAA TV’s reporter Daniyal Umer explained the salient features of the new reforms on Naya Din.
“Hospitals will be made autonomous under the bill,” he said.
A board of governors will be formed for each hospital which will include industry professionals, philanthropists and academics. They will decide how many doctors will be hired.
The government will give them a fixed budget to cover their operation costs. If the hospitals could not operate with the given funds, they will have to raise charges of tests and procedures to cover the expenses.
However, young doctors say they are moving towards privatisation which will not be in the interest of patients and doctors alike.
“Yesterday there were four protest demonstrations in Lahore including on Ferozepur Road, outside the Lahore General Hospital, on Mall Road and Queens Road,” Umer explained. “It doesn’t seem as if the government wants to negotiate with the doctors if we look at their statements so far.”
He added that most government officials and hospital heads are not responding to requests from the media either. Dr Mahmood Ayaz, the dean of the Services Institute of Medical Sciences, refused to give a statement in this regard.
Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid terms the protesting doctors a mafia and considers their protests baseless, Umer said. The government has said it will hire 300 doctors to replace the old ones.
“Six months ago we announced our upcoming protest,” said Dr Maroof, the leader of Young Doctors Faisalabad. “We started creating awareness and distributing pamphlets to the public. We also informed the authorities of our demands.”
The young doctors demanded that patients coming to their hospitals be treated free of cost and given free medications. And doctors, paramedics and nurses should be assured of job security.
“The new reforms say our jobs will be contractual for a fixed period of two years and the contract will not be renewed after two years,” Dr Maroof said.
Dr Atif Majeed, patron-in-chief of Young Doctors in Lahore, said the government was misguiding the public.
“It doesn’t want to make hospitals autonomous; it wants to privatise them which we are against,” he said.
Regarding road blocks and shutdown of hospital services, Dr Majeed said it was better to protest on roads than see patients dying due to being unable to afford medicines.
He said that diagnostic tests are no longer free: an MRI scan now costs Rs600 and a CT scan costs Rs3000. “Nobody comes out on the streets for patients, for the poor,” lamented Dr Majeed.
As for the shutdown of emergency services, Dr Maroof claimed it only applied to elective services and operations, not emergency ones.
“We were supposed to meet the chief minister on Monday. But Dr Yasmin spoke to him before us and our meeting was cancelled,” he said.
“She is making patients and doctors suffer because she wants to retain her position.”
He noted that the health minister had protested against the same reforms herself in 2013.