Islamabad – Non medical PIMS staff strike continues

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PIMS Islamabad Pera Medical Staff Protest Headed by Mian Aslam - Express 15 Feb, 2011

Islamabad (Thursday, June 16, 2011) – Non medical gazetted and non gazetted staff of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) continued their strike on Wednesday to condemn the ‘preferential treatment’ that the new Career Structure for Health Personnel (CSHP) accords to doctors, nurses and paramedics versus the non-medical and non-technical staff. Convinced that the hospital’s joint executive director Dr. Jehanzeb Aurakzai has played a decisive role in de-linking the new Health Pay Scale (HPS) from the Basic Pay Scale (BPS), they are hell bent on having him transferred from the post.
“The new service structure reeks of preferential treatment for some cadres and discriminatory treatment for others. Why is it that all doctors have been promoted to an upper grade while the non-medical staff (from grades 1 to 20, including the joint executive director-non-medical) remains in the same grade,” questioned Manzar Naqvi, spokesman of the joint action committee of the All-Non-Medical Health Employees Association (ANMHEA).
Sharing the demands of the protesters, Manzar said, “We want implementation of timeframe promotional channel, as approved for paramedics. Moreover, we are not for the HPS. Remaining within BPS, we should be given health allowance and non-practicing allowance.” Manzar termed the implementation of CSHP “a conspiracy hatched to deprive the country’s health professionals of the protective umbrella of civil servants’ rights.”
The demands of ANMHEA are: service structure for promotion to higher grade for all non-medical gazetted and non-gazetted staff as approved for paramedics and nurses; existing pay scales with all other rights under Civil Servants Act 1972, instead of proposed HPS; payment of salary out of voted budget (recurring budget allocation) through AGPR as already adopted; all existing facilities, perks and privileges as admissible from time to time; and grant of monthly Hospital (health) Risk Allowance equivalent to running basic pay.
Manzar alleged that all doctors, consultants, nurses and paramedics had unanimously agreed on these demands until Dr. Aurakzai hijacked the process by convincing them in favour of CSHP. However, at the moment, the non-gazetted staff neither enjoys the support of young doctors, nor even of the country’s paramedics.
Speaking on behalf of the Young Doctors Association (YDA), Dr. Owais Ghani, senior vice president of YDA, said: “We reserve the right to use any option of agitation in support of the great personalities who got a new service structure approved for doctors and paramedics. We condemn all conspiracies being hatched against the executive director of PIMS Professor Dr. Mehmood Jamal and Dr. Jehanzeb Aurakzai, and will go to any end to abort the nefarious designs of the protesters.” He also regretted that while doctors were busy treating victims of the recent suicide blast in I-8, the hospital’s non-medical staff continued their strike, least bothered about their moral obligation to facilitate the medical staff.
M Arshad Khan, general secretary of the All Pakistan Paramedical Staff Federation (APPSF), also reiterated the organisation’s earlier stance to dissociate itself from the strike. “We have nothing to do with the unjustified decision of the joint action committee. Both the ED and the JED are honest professionals who remained at the forefront of our struggle for a new career structure. We will prove to be a stumbling block in way of any agitation aimed at sidelining these honest administrators,” Arshad Khan said.
Dr. Raja Amjad Mehmood, JED of the Children’s Hospital, also expressed concern over the evolving crisis. “This is not the way hospitals are run. Whether it is about Dr. Aurakzai or Dr. XYZ, we cannot allow the staff to blackmail us, or to involve us in their petty politics. With a staff strength of 4,000, this would mean that any 10 to 12 people who form a group should start blackmailing us! This is totally unacceptable,” he remarked.
Professor Dr. Mehmood Jamal clarified that the doors of his office are open for negotiations at all hours. “I have no ego problems. Dr. Aurakzai’s dedication is unassailable. He has even sacrificed his family life in the service of this institution,” he added.
Teased for being ‘the unsung hero’ of the Ministry of Health, which has failed to recognise his contributions even though he readily comes forward to pioneer new initiatives whenever summoned, Dr. Aurakzai’s career as a medical professional is dotted with numerous achievements. Having studied, trained and worked in the USA, Ireland and UK for over 12 years, he returned to Pakistan in 2003 and has been working with the Ministry of Health ever since. He has served PIMS in different capacities, including the post of deputy executive director.
Dr. Aurakzai has held the positions of Director-National Institute of Health, Director-National Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, and Project Director-Medical Rehabilitation of Persons With Disabilities in the Earthquake-affected Areas (MRDEA), among others. He was in the forefront during the monsoon floods, the earthquake of 2005, the airplane crash on the Margalla Hills, the IDPs crisis, the establishment of the National Health Emergency Preparedness Response Network, and most recently, the activation of a dormant Rural Health Centre in Bharakau and the establishment of the Federal Medical and Dental College at PIMS.
Ironically, the reason for which the non-gazetted staff of PIMS is determined to remove Dr. Aurakzai out of the way, is also the reason for which he commands great respect from various other cadres of the medical profession. He negotiated with doctors and paramedics as the Ministry of Health finalised the new career and salary structures. He prevented their strike from taking the kind of ugly turn that it took in Punjab, where several lives were lost.
At PIMS, Dr. Aurakzai was instrumental in giving a record number of promotions in a single calendar year. Interestingly, a majority of these promotions benefited the non-gazetted staff. It was during his tenure that the provision of free essential and life-saving medicines to all patients, regardless of their entitlement status, became a reality, and free pathology and radiology services for emergency and indoor patients became available.
Commenting on the situation, Dr. Aurakzai said, “I have tried to explain to them that the CSHP has been developed by representatives of 11 federally-governed institutions and has been passed by the National Pay Commission and the Pay and Pension Commission. I believe this is great service on part of the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the leadership of Secretary Health Nargis Sethi for the career of health professionals, and will go a long way in the career building of medical professionals in Pakistan.”

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