Following the sexual harassment of a female doctor by a janitor at Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Rahim Yar Khan, women doctors and staff at public hospitals across the province have become fearful and have voiced their concerns over security arrangements at such institutions.
According to reports in the local media, guards from private security companies are employed at majority of the large and small scale hospitals across Punjab. The companies do not run in-depth background check on these individuals, as a result of which sometimes men with dubious characters, such as drug addicts, mange to get the jobs. Moreso, these individuals only make between Rs10,000 to Rs12,000 per month, while a handful of them are also underpaid.
Sources shared that incidents such as the Sheikh Zayed Hospital one occur frequently but nurses and female doctors don’t report them out of fear.
A doctor at Jinnah Hospital shared that female doctors and nursing staff often pay the guards and janitors working the night shift in order to stay in their “good books” and ensure their security. These individuals are present outside empty wards.
Young Doctors’ Association (YDA) Secretary General Dr Salman Kazmi listed two factors that are causing fear in the doctors’ community. He said that the guards and janitors should have proper uniform so that it is easy to differentiate between them, adding that such staff is often mistaken as doctors which allow them to move freely. His second point stated that the health department should only recruit retired security officials and army personnel as guards.
Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid assured YDA that measures will be taken to improve security for female staff including passing a protection bill in Punjab Assembly. Only after she had given her word did the association withdraw the strike.
Earlier, hospitals across Punjab were in limbo after YDA boycotted out-patients departments in solidarity with the female doctor who was harassed by a janitor at Sheikh Zayed Hospital.