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Doctors end strike at public hospitals following LHC orders

Doctors end strike at public hospitals following LHC orders

LAHORE: The protesting medics on Thursday ended their month-long strike after the Lahore High Court ordered the Young Doctors Association (YDA) to immediately end the agitation against the Medical Teaching Institutes Ordinance 2019 and directed an official committee to hear concerns of all stakeholders, including the protesting medics.

The court appointed Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Department Secretary Momin Agha as convener of the committee and also included YDA president/secretary with counsel, Pakistan Medical Commission vice president, secretary of law and parliamentary affairs and executive secretary of College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan (CPSP) as its new members.

“The committee will hold a two-day consultative workshop on Nov 22 and 23 on the draft Act by notifying all its members,” said an order passed by Justice Jawad Hassan on a public interest petition challenging the the young doctors strike.

Representatives of the YDA and its members were present in the court when the judge resumed hearing.

With respect to the doctors’ strike, Justice Hassan observed that the professionals could not go on strike while on duty when they were being regulated by their own bodies.

On behalf of the YDA, Advocate Abid Saqi said if the government heard the objections/reservations of the doctors on the draft Act, they would call off the strike by 12pm and go back to work “to earn their livelihood and serve the humanity”.

He argued that the consultation with the stakeholders was necessary for the better enactment of the law as it will create sociological and economic impact on the citizens.

The judge remarked that the doctors, nurses, paramedics and allied service providers were subject to the Punjab Essential Service Act, which prohibited the government servants from absenting themselves from work.

“As a matter of fact, section 7 of the Act imposes criminal liability by providing that a person guilty of breach of the above provision of the Act is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, and with fine,” observed the judge, adding that in the presence of the said law the doctors and other allied service providers had no justification for strike.

However, the judge noted that the stakeholders whose life and profession would be affected by the draft Act needed to be consulted and their objections were necessary to be taken seriously by the authorities.

He directed the committee’s convener, who was present in the court, to finalise the draft after the consultative workshop and submit a report before the court by the next hearing.

Mr Agha assured the judge that the government would not take any adverse action against the YDA members over the strike prior to the Thursday’s court order.

Justice Hassan, however, said the government would be free to take a stern action against any person who would continue strike after 12 noon on Thursday. The judge will resume hearing on Dec 2.

Judicial Activism Panel chairman Azhar Siddique had filed the petition seeking action against the doctors for observing strikes.

Later in the day, addressing a press conference at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology, Grand Health Alliance chairman Dr Salman Haseeb said all the employees of state-run hospitals, including doctors, nurses and paramedics will resume their respective duties from today (Friday).

He said the employees had withdrawn their services from the state-run hospitals across the province in protest against enforcement of the Medical Teaching Institutions Ordinance.

As the Lahore High Court issued directions to end strike, the employees would follow the court decision in letter and spirit.

Mr Haseeb said the LHC had constituted a committee to resolve the issue in consultation with the protesting employees.

The GHA would present its demands to the committee to get the “genuine issues” of the doctors, nurses and paramedics, addressed, he said, adding that hopefully the matter would be resolved soon.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2019

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