The politics of doctors’ protests

Published: April 25, 2012

Doctors have a right to voice their concerns but this should be done without affecting patients. PHOTO: INP/FILE

Fifty per cent of the general cadre doctors in Punjab retire while still in the basic pay scale (BPS). The health department, like many other government departments, doesn’t have clearly defined requirements procedure which, once attained, put you into the next pay scale.

This is what the doctors call a service structure and are fighting for in Punjab these days.

The issue came in to the limelight this time when 691 new doctors were recruited by the Punjab government through the Punjab Public Service Commission. The government had to transfer around 450 doctors to adjust these new doctors which infuriated the Young Doctors’ Association (YDA) Punjab. As a consequence, outpatient departments (OPDs) across the province were shut down.

Doctors argue that the new recruits could have easily been accommodated had there been a service structure. They announced that they would observe a strike until the government acceded to their primary demand for setting up a service structure.

There is, however, another side to the picture. Health department figures show that some 25,000 patients visit public hospitals’ OPDs just in Lahore every day. Most of them are poor and cannot afford private treatment.

The chronology of the YDA shows that since its inception in July 2008, every time the group went on strike, sooner or later the government gave in and accepted the doctors’ demands. Senior doctors believe this has encouraged the young doctors so much that they go on strike any time they feel as if a demand of theirs has been unmet.

This also shows the writ of the government which first makes a decision and then withdraws it. If it has to withdraw the decision of transfers, it should do so before people lose lives. And if it has to stand by its decision, it should take senior doctors into confidence, many of whom are not siding with the YDA, and put an end to the suffering of patients.

As far as the service structure is concerned, doctors have a right to voice their concerns but this should be done without affecting patients or mustering the support of opposition parties in the province. This is purely an administrative issue and should be resolved on administrative grounds.

Read more by Ali here.

Ali Usman

Ali Usman

A Lahore-based reporter who works at The Express Tribune

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Faraz Talat

    “doctors have a right to voice their concerns but this should be done without affecting patients”

    Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.

    Why the heck should the government, or anybody else, take the doctors’ plight seriously if the healthcare industry continues to operate at maximum efficiency whether or not the demands are met?

    Doc:“I want a fair salary for my service!”
    Gov:”Or else what?
    Doc:Or else I go back to the hospital and keep working hard as usual!”

    It’s important for the strike to not effect the ER, and patients with life-threatening conditions can never be ethically ignored. But to say that patients shouldn’t be affected at all is idealistic and impractical. The inconvenience to the patients is regrettable, but doctors aren’t just mindless healing robots – they have to safeguard their own rights too.Recommend

  • Ty

    @ faraz,Let’s hear you sa that when someone you know is in the hospital, these doctors are callous ,selfish and a disgrace to their profession, the govt would be better off without themRecommend

  • Usman Shahid

    If the doctors are so concerned with low pays, leave the govt job and do their private practice. If they will be good enough they will earn more than the govt Pay. Recommend

  • Umar

    It is always very unfortunate reading the ridiculous thoughts about Drs on these blogs and forums. This article (by a “reporter on the life and style desk of The Express Tribune” does NOT have the expertise nor the experience to understand the politics of this situation. First off let is remember that the SENIOR doctors are still there, still giving service, because it is their iob. Can the author please tell us how about why his recommendations have mertit? Can he tell us about the MANY senior doctors siding with the YDA? Can he explain to us who’s actual responsibility patient care is (seniors) can he tell us about what Drs get paid? How they are often physically and verbally abused without the government stepping in? can he tell us the caseloads these Drs bear? Can he tell us what the law says as to who’s responsibility it is to provide healthcare? Can he then tell us why Drs do this at all? Can the author, even as a lay-person take a look at Drs strikes in other countries and tell us the parallels?

    And the above two comments are case in point as to how illogical people tend to be in these discussions:

    “If the doctors are so concerned with low pays, leave the govt job and do their private practice. If they will be good enough they will earn more than the govt Pay.”

    They do, and will continue to do so. You say this as if this was medicine’s best kept secret, that somehow these doctors, who are usually subjected to the most competitive training process somehow didn’t know this. Many leave for the US, UK, EU, Australia, and thrive, making lots of money, gaining respect and laurels in a meritocratic environment, and giving back with skills and remittances. Let us listen to you and Ty and do away with the government Drs who are a “callous and a disgrace”. Will you and Ty selflessly step in, in whatever capacity you can, and “donate” your time for meagre pay, no certainty of promotion, and a high-stress job if they leave the government hospitals?

    Why is the government not working to improve the incentives to keep these people here? People in other professions protest and the excesses of the government are lambasted in this forum by the same people that post here. There is NO distinction between them and the YDA. If someone dies as a DIRECT act of the Dr who strikes at the moment when he could’ve instead have given a life-saving injection, prosecute him for manslaughter or murder. If the GOVERNMENT is unable to provide its citizens with healthcare (a job of the government, NOT the drs) and it cannot institute basic safeguards and any semblance of a fair system for some of the most valuable and productive citizens who it employs, shame on you people for supporting the unfair policies and rallying against an unfairly treated group with you’re uninformed and illogical responses.Recommend

  •!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Faraz… well said.Recommend

  • Truth Exposed

    thanks for explainingRecommend