After demands rejected: Doctors consider widening strike
RAWALPINDI, June 24: After the Punjab government and PML-N legislators refused to meet their demand for better service structure, representatives of the Young Doctors Association (YDA) from across the province are to meet in Rawalpindi on Thursday (June 28) to decide whether to widen their week-long strike.
District representatives of YDA who have called the meeting at Rawalpindi Medical College will discuss whether to extend their boycott of duties in out-patient departments in Punjab government hospitals to emergency departments also, according to YDA sources.
Special Assistant to the Punjab Chief Minister for Health, Khawaja Salman Rafique, dismissed the young doctors’ raft of demands as irrational. “If accepted, the demands will cost the government an additional Rs17 billion in non-development expenditure,”
he told Dawn.
YDA Punjab had been on strike for the last one week at public hospitals across the province including Rawalpindi that created problems for poor patients who were left unattended in the hospitals.
The Punjab government increased the salaries of the doctors last year but they demanded improvement in service structure too. According to the documents submitted with the health department, the doctors demanded their recruitment directly into Basic Pay Scale (BPS-18) besides facilities including house, telephone, five advance increments, two special allowances for
professors – teaching allowance and health professional allowance – both equal to their running basic salary.
They also demanded soft loans for cars for BPS-18 doctors, 1,000cc cars with petrol and driver for BPS-20 and 1,300cc vehicles for all doctors in BPS-21 with driver and petrol. Due to their rather irrational demands, the provincial government refused and said it was not possible for the government to provide more money and privileges to the doctors as young doctors were already getting Rs60,000 on fresh appointment.
Khawaja Salman Rafique further told Dawn that it was not possible for the government to pay more to doctors, nurses and other paramedics at public hospitals as it was already paying Rs60,000 per month to young doctors which was double the amount being paid to their fellows at private hospitals.
“The financial position of the provincial government does not allow us to increase the salaries and fringe benefits of doctors especially seniors who were already earning more from their private clinics and hospitals,” he said.
He made it quite clear that even if the government had funds, it would have preferred to improve the infrastructure at hospitals to provide maximum facilities to poor patients who were unable to afford pathological tests and medicines on their own.
On the other hand, YDA Punjab Chairman Mohammad Haroon said the association had called a convention at Rawalpindi Medical College to chalk out future plan after the refusal of the government to meet their demands.
Surprisingly, however, he admitted that most of the demands of the doctors were irrational and said they demanded more to make the government at least accept some basic demands like induction of doctors into BPS-18.
MNA Malik Shakeel Awan confirmed to Dawn the YDA had contacted him but, he said, he made it clear that the PML-N-led provincial government would not comprise on health services to patients at government-run hospitals. “The doctors should end the strike as it was creating grave problems for the patients,” he demanded.