At least 12 patients died, according to doctors, and more than 25 doctors were injured on Wednesday as protesting lawyers broke into the emergency ward of the Punjab Institute of Cardiology in Lahore.
“The lawyers smashed the mirrors, destroyed medicines and broke machinery in the emergency ward,” said Grand Health Alliance Chairperson Dr Salman Haseeb. “They tortured the paramedic staff and stopped operations midway.”
We have been trying to contact the police but none of our calls were attended, he said.
People at the hospital have been forced out into the lawns and patients have been left unattended. Doctors, paramedic staff and nurses either escaped or have been locked inside rooms.
“More than 25 doctors have been severely injured,” Dr Haseeb claimed.
Patients and families suffered as lawyers broke into the ICU wards of the hospital. “As soon as the protest started, doctors and paramedic staff escaped, leaving the patients unattended,” a patient said.
Dr Haseeb has blamed the government and the health ministry for the attack.
Following the attack, the Young Consultants Association and the Young Doctors Association announced strikes at all outdoor and indoor emergencies. The doctors claimed that they will continue the strike if the government does not take action against the attack.
Information Minister Fayyaz ul Hassan Chohan has taken notice of the incident. “The chief minister has ordered a committee to be formed to take action against these lawyers,” he said. The committee will be headed by Law Minister Raja Basharrat.
Chohan was injured during the protest as well. He had visited the hospital to talk to the lawyers and negotiate with them, however, as soon as he reached the lawyers attacked him. Due to the worsening situation, the Punjab government deployed an additional police force outside the hospital.
The lawyers, however, burned a police van and started attacking them, after which the police started firing tear gas shells in an attempt to control the protesters.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has also taken notice of the incident and summoned a report from the Punjab chief secretary and police chief.
The police should not resort to gas shelling, criticised PML-N leader Azma Bukhari. It is a cardiology hospital, gas shelling will be harmful for the patients inside the hospital, she said.
Bukhari blamed the Lahore government and Chief Minister Usman Buzdar for the incident. The issue was minor and could’ve been sorted initially, she added.
Chohan assured that an investigation will be conducted against the lawyers and an FIR will be registered against them. These people will not be allowed to turn the state into a “banana republic,” he said.
What started the protests?
The lawyers are protesting against a video that went viral on social media on December 10 in which a doctor is seen narrating an incident with lawyers in front of a group. The doctor in the video said that a group of lawyers had gone to the Punjab IG and told them to charge “two doctors” under Section 7 of ATA.
The IG refused to press charges and the lawyers said they could save face that way, narrated the doctor.
The lawyers called the video “mocking” and gathered outside the hospital and closed off its entry and exit points on Wednesday in protest.
Talking to SAMAA TV Chohan said that he devised a strategy at the hospital with the operations DIG and stopped the gas shelling. They used water cannons instead. “We used the cannons till the mob dispersed from PIC to Shadman Chowk.
“In fact, I myself rescued 10 workers who were severely tortured by the public and handed them over to the police,” he added.
The doctors said that 12 patients died, but according to Chohan, the number of patients who died is four. He called them “martyrs”.
SAMAA TV tried contacting the Pakistan Lawyers’ Association but they refused to give any statements regarding the incident.