LAHORE - Following Sunday’s massive crackdown on its leadership by the Punjab government, the Young Doctors Association (YDA) intensified its strike on Monday, refusing to work even in emergency and indoor wards of all major hospital across the province, resulting in the deaths of 11 patients, including three minor children.
On the other hand, the Punjab government continued with its steely stance and dismissed 24 doctors, while arresting more than 50 others.
To cope with the crisis, the Punjab government had requested the Pakistan Army to send in doctors for managing patients and around 149 army medical officers started work in various hospitals of Punjab on Monday.
The Inter-Services Public Relations said 90 army medical officers had been employed in hospitals in Lahore, 15 each in Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan and 14 in Gujranwala.
The government had initiated action against the young doctors after they refused to end the strike and warned of laying siege to the Punjab CM’s Secretariat to get their demands approved.
The Punjab government on Monday arrested 34 YDA doctors under MPO-16 and shifted them to Kot Lakhpat Jail, while 3 doctors in Gujranwala were sacked from services and two others were charged with murder. Lahore District Coordination Officer Noorul Ameen confirmed the arrests.
Declining to bow down to the Punjab government's pressure tactics, the YDA announced a Punjab-wide strike from Monday. The call for strike drew support from YDA Islamabad and the Sindh Doctors Association who shut out patient departments (OPDs) and operation theaters for two hours.
The Pakistan Medical Association Punjab also announced to observe black day today (Tuesday) against the police action on young doctors. The Faisalabad Medical Teachers Association (MTA) also supported the demands of YDA and demanded the release of the arrested doctors in Lahore and other cities of the Punjab.
The Young Doctors Association Balochistan had also announced to call a strike, but it ended the strike after seven hours after Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani took serious notice of sufferings of the patients.
Meanwhile on Monday, OPDs of several hospitals across the province remained open as army’s medical officers and senior government doctors remained present to treat the patients.
Adviser to CM on Health Salman Rafiq told reporters that the government was forced to take steps against the young doctors as they wanted to close indoor wards of the hospitals, adding that the YDA strike could endanger the people’s life.
He said that the provincial health department deployed around 596 new doctors across the province to tackle the crisis.
Rafiq said 57 new doctors were deputed to Mayo Hospital, 90 to Services Hospital, 50 to Jinnah hospital, 27 to General Hospital, 40 to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and 19 to Punjab Institute of Cardiology. In Faisalabad, the government posted 30 new doctors in KPMC, 50 in Allied Hospital and 10 in FIC hospital.
The government deputed 39 new doctors to Holy Family Hospital Rawalpindi, six to DHQ Rawalpindi, while 70 new doctors were deputed to Nishtar Hospital Multan and 76 to Sheikh Zaid Hospital Rahim Yar Khan.
Another 32 were posted in Victoria Hospital Bahawalpur, he added. The Punjab government has asked qualified candidates seeking paid jobs in teaching hospitals to contact the government hospitals’ administrations with their required degrees and other attached documents. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah warned young doctors to avoid participating in the strike and said all those who participated in the strike would face serious consequences. He said the government would not allow the doctors to play with the life of innocent people.
Also, reports said a two-year-old child died at Lahore’s Mayo Hospital due to the absence of the doctors and an FIR had been filed against six doctors, of which four were arrested and presented before a judicial magistrate. The magistrate sent the doctors, Tajammul, Adil, Usman and Matloob on a four-day physical remand. Reports pouring in late at night quoted the provincial health department as saying that 918 young doctors joined duty in various teaching hospitals across the province on Monday. It said 98 doctors took responsibilities at Mayo Hospital, 114 at Services Hospital, 62 at Jinnah Hospital, 45 at Lahore General Hospital, 41 at Children’s Hospital, 46 at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, while 25 new doctors had joined PIC.