DOCTORS in Balochistan’s public hospitals have been on strike for nearly three weeks now due to the abduction of Dr Saeed Khan, an eye specialist, in early October. Only emergency services are available while operation theatres and OPDs have remained closed. Doctors have complained that the provincial government has done nothing to recover the kidnapped medic, while security for medics in Balochistan is very poor. Perhaps Dr Khan’s abduction was a trigger. While the security situation in Balochistan is highly unsatisfactory overall, it has been particularly so for doctors of late; over the past few months several medics have either been murdered or kidnapped for ransom in the restive province. In fact media reports say that in some cases doctors have identified the kidnappers, yet the state has failed to act.
From the facts on the ground nobody appears to be safe in Balochistan. Yet when doctors are targeted and hence unable to perform their duties in a secure environment, the miseries of the common man in Balochistan are compounded. Many patients do not have the means to afford private medical care, the only available option when public health institutions shut down. The doctors appear to have a very genuine reason to protest. The provincial government needs to make concrete efforts to recover the kidnapped doctor, while security for medical practitioners needs to be beefed up, especially in public institutions. Doctors commuting to and from work must also be provided extra security. However, as legitimate as their demands are, the doctors should consider other methods of protest. Going on strike for weeks on end hurts the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. The medics have every right to pursue their legitimate demands. But this should be done in such a manner that while their message is clearly communicated to the state, people are not denied medical care.