There was a strike of the doctors, nursing staff, paramedics and non-technical staff of the public sector hospitals in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bringing to a grinding halt the health facilities of government hospitals in the province.
Since 27thof September, the striking doctors ceased services to the pathology and radiology departments, outpatient departments (OPDs) and operation theaters. Those who wanted to provide the services refrained due to the threat they felt from their colleagues on strike. Peshawar police used tear gas and baton charge on the protestors at Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) to disperse them. At least 1o medical professionals were injured and over 15 arrested that day.
‘The three Peshawar-based medical teaching institutions including LRH, Khyber Teaching Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex received 15,000 patients per day. About 1,500 patients on an average per day were operated on and more than triple of this number underwent investigations in these hospitals. However, all these procedures had been suspended due to strike.’ (Pakistan Today Oct. 3, 2019)
Mashriq Newspaper published an advertisement clarifying the Regional and District Health Authorities Act 2019 against which the protest broke out. Main points raised was:
- Converting each hospital as corporate body to be responsible for its own expenses, the expenses will be borne by the patients, instead of funds
- Hospitals will be given loans which will be returned by either charging the patients or selling the hospital (Reference clause number 18 Para 2 of DHA/RHA Act).
- In every district members of political parties will be included in the board of governors. The hospital staff will no longer be awarded civil servant status. They will become employees of Authorities with no entitlement to pension or other benefits.
On 21stMay all demands of protestors were accepted by the CM but later government took a U turn. The rates of cost CT scan from 1200 ruppees was raised to Rs 2500, Ultrasound from Rs 180 to Rs 500, cost of medicines raised by 400%. Approximately increased costs of all tests three times more than existing costs.
The demands raised in the same advertisement are:
- a) To provide the poor segment coming for treatment free facilities
- b) The police members involved in using force must be removed from their positions and a judicial inquiry be held and
- c) The decision of Supreme Court must be implemented and the irregularities conducted must be looked into.
‘The main demand of the alliance is revoking the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Regional and District Health Authorities Act (RDHA), 2019, which it argues is meant to privatize all hospitals after failure of the Medical Teaching Institutions Reforms Act, 2015, which has not brought any improvement in teaching hospitals during the last five years. The law was passed in September.’ (Dawn Nov. 12th2019)
Although the GrandHealth Alliance, a syndicate of health employees including doctors, nurses, paramedics and other staff did end the strike after 47 days, with a ministerial committee being formed to address the grievances- the main sufferers were the common people of the province who rely on the government hospitals for their medical needs. In these strikes with no OPDs’ working, and the MTIS with a queue of people waiting for operations, the unfairness to these poor segment cannot even be calculated. Were lives lost? There is no record. What of those who underwent operation just before the protests broke out? Were their post-op needs met? There is no record. What of those undergoing ongoing treatment from the hospitals as outdoor patients? How were they effected by this strike? There is no record.
Should the government have addressed the issue in a more responsible manner? Yes it should have. The point here is that it is always the common man who suffers.Those who are affluent can go to a private hospital or abroad, but where does the common man goes? To die in his home probably.
If one looks at inflation, ever day goods costs have sky rocketed, tomatoes being one example crossing Rs 300 a kilo. Industries are in doldrums, local production not taking off, bank interest rates has gone up to 13.5% for private sector. Automobile industry is doing poorly as is the construction sector. The list is long. The picture is clear. It’s your common man losing jobs. They are the ones struggling to make ends meet daily. They are the ones who are finding it tough to pay a basic electricity bill at increased rates.
Freda Shah, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to Czech Republic says, “Government’s economic policy should be so geared as to attract wide based foreign and domestic investment, create trade and business opportunities, improve infrastructure and build up a well-trained and efficient workforce, among other requirements. It is very much the government’s responsibility to create an economic environment that results in more employment opportunities at every level and in all areas of activity in the country. Macroeconomics and microeconomics have to work in harmony with each other for tangible and long lasting result.”
Does anyone care?