Doctors Strike in Punjab: OPD Closed
Young Doctors Association to strike at OPDs, threaten to shut down emergency wards if govt acts against association.
LAHORE: A number of public hospital doctors stopped working in out patient departments and wards on Tuesday following a Young Doctors Association (YDA) Punjab call for protest strike.
They were protesting against the Punjab government for not increasing their salary packages, as promised.
The association members at the Lahore General Hospital blocked Ferozepur Road, those at Services Hospital doctors blocked Jail Road, those at Jinnah Hospital doctors blocked Canal Road and those at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital doctors protested on The Mall in front of the Punjab Assembly.
Similar protests were held in Rawalpindi where doctors blocked Murree Road, in Bahawalpur and RY Khan where doctors blocked Sindh Highway and in Multan where roads leading to other parts of South Punjab were blocked.
YDA Punjab president Hamid Butt warned the government that the doctors will not resume their duties in OPDs and wards, except emergency wards, until their demands were met. The doctors will also take their protest to the streets every Tuesday and block main roads until they are given a raise. He said the chief minister had promised the doctors in 2008 that the salaries of medical officers would be raised from Rs22,500 to Rs70,000 to stop them doctors from going abroad. He said that during the last two years, over 4,000 doctors had left the country because of low salary packages.
He said that the YDA Punjab wanted raises not just for MOs but also post graduate medical students.
“We are demanding that the MOs’ salaries be raised in the first phase because senior consultants and professors can make money from private practices. “MOs and post graduate medical students are the ones who are on duty round the clock. Senior doctors and professors leave the hospital after 11 am,” he explained to The Express Tribune. “Many PGs get married during specialization studies and cannot then live on the low stipends,” he added.
The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and YDA Pakistan are also demanding salary revisions. When asked why the PMA and YDA Pakistan had not observed the strike, he said that the two associations had refused to endorse the call “to please the Punjab government”. Their press releases stated that they would not go on strike because they wanted the Punjab government to give a raise to all cadres of doctors including MOs, PGs, senior consultants, assistant professors, associate professors and professors. “Our demand doesn’t end with the MOs but yes, that is our first demand,” the YDA Punjab chapter president said.
“The PMA and YDA Pakistan had assured the government, by rejecting our strike call, the strike would not be successful, but after Tuesday the government will have to rethink its position,” he said.
He warned that if Punjab government took any action against YDA, the doctors would “close down emergency wards of the major hospitals”. Butt said that the chief minister should listen to the association. If he doesn’t, YDA Punjab will start a campaign against him “on the roads, online and through the media,” he said.
A Health Department spokesperson said that the only reason the government was not raising doctors’ salaries was because it lacked funds. He also said that the strike “by the small group” had been unsuccessful. “Except a few minor disruptions, work at government hospitals went on smoothly on Tuesday,” he added.
(Published in “Express Tribune” on March 2, 2011)