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CADD minister finally visits protesting Pims employees

CADD minister finally visits protesting Pims employees

ISLAMABAD: Three days after they started the protest, employees of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) were finally paid a visit by the Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry on Wednesday.

It was decided that the hospital will be separated from the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University as demanded by the protesters and that another dialogue session will be held in the ministry Thursday morning to see whether the issue can be addressed through the passing of a bill or through a presidential ordinance.

Talking to Dawn, Pims Vice Chancellor Dr Javed Akram said he was also in favour of separating the hospital from the university but legislation to this effect could not yet be done due to bureaucratic hurdles.

“I hope the issue will be addressed and the employees will call off the strike as patients have been suffering due to the protests,” he said.

However, representative of young doctors, Dr Asfandyar Khan said the strike will not be called off.

Tariq Fazal Chaudhry promises protesters the hospital will be separated from SZABMU, will continue dialogue session today

“We will be able to say if we will modify the strike or show a little flexibility after the dialogue [on Thursday] as right now, the employees are not in the mood to call off the strike,” he said.

Pims employees have been observing a strike since Monday due to which the outpatient department and laboratories were closed and operations were postponed. At least 30,000 patients were turned back during the three days of strikes. The management had written to the ministry, after making a number of verbal requests, asking it to play its role in addressing the issue.

Dr Khan said doctors will not accept anything less than the separation of the hospital from the university.

“For four years the government has been using delaying tactics due to which the bill tabled for this could not pass through parliament,” he said.

Representative of the All Pims Staff Association, Tanveer Noshahi said it was unfortunate that patients had to suffer due to the strike but the CADD minister had not bothered visiting the first two days because Nawaz Sharif was visiting the city.

“Pims is located in the constituency of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNA Asad Umar, who also did not bother coming to show solidarity with the employees,” he said.

A representative of the Nursing Association Sharif Khattak said CADD had asked for two weeks time for the separation of the hospital which has not been done in two years. Another representative, Mohammad Shahid, blamed the Pims vice chancellor for the delay and suggested the university be moved outside the hospital campus and warned that the entry of university employees into Pims may be halted.

During the PPP government, parliament passed the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University, Islamabad Bill 2013 amid criticism and protest by the then opposition, PML-N and Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

The bill was moved by the then minister for CADD Nazar Mohammad Gondal. Under the bill, Pims was upgraded to a medical university and was empowered to confer degrees, diplomas, certificates and other academic distinctions.

However, the then welfare hospital was affiliated with the university’s hospital and the status of its employees, who were civil servants, was gradually changed and they have been offered to become employees of the university. Quotas for the children of the employees in appointments and various courses are being withdrawn as well.

The employees have held a number of protests and token strikes but their demands are yet to be addressed.

MNA retired Major Tahir Iqbal tabled a bill in 2014 for the separation of the hospital and the university, which is still pending. Last year, the Supreme Court directed the government to address the issue after which a file was moved to the Prime Minister Office but no action has been taken yet.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2017

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