ISLAMABAD: Attempts by the CADD minister to placate picketing staffers at Pims failed to end a strike which continued for a third consecutive day on Wednesday causing a problem for poor patients visiting for far-off areas who were refused treatment.
Healthcare services at the outpatient departments (OPDs) and operation theatres of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) remained suspended as medical and non-medical employees continued their boycott to protest the government’s delay in passing legislation which separates the hospital and Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University (SZABMU).
On Wednesday evening, the State Minister for Capital Administration Development Division (CADD) Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry held a meeting with representatives of the protesters. However, he failed to convince them to postpone the strike.
Negotiating with the protesters, Chaudhry said that a bill to amend the act had to be moved in November 2016, but it could not be processed. He explained that consultations with the law and finance ministries had delayed the bill.
The CADD minister expressed concern over the suffering faced by patients owing to the strike.
Even though he promised the protesters to expedite processing of the bill and to move it again in the current session of the parliament, his reluctance to commit to a definitive timeframe left the protesters unmoved.
The striking staffers said that unless they see a notification or presidential order separating Pims from SZABMU, they will not end the strike.
Another meeting of representatives with the meeting is expected to take place on Thursday (today).
They sat in front of the main building of the hospital and chanted slogans, demanding that the government restore the previous welfare status of the hospital.
However, emergency and critical care units remained functional.
While the poor patients coming from far off areas were refused treatment during the day owing to the strike, patients who could afford to pay were treated at the OPDs in the evening. According to officials, nearly 10,000 people visit the hospital and its attached centres for medical care.
Ironically, senior consultants, who are rarely available in the morning, also observed the strike. They too continued their private practice at OPDs in the evening. Non-medical supporting staff was also available at the OPDs.
On Wednesday, activists and union leaders from other government ministries also joined the protesting Pims staffers to show solidarity with them.
“Nowhere in the world are hospitals upgraded into universities and turned into autonomous bodies,” the protesters argued. They added that the issue has been lingering for the past four years and now the parliament must amend the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University Islamabad Act so that poor patients can continue to get free treatment.
Pims Nursing Association President Imamuddin Rind said that it was ironic how the contentious Election Bill 2017 was passed by the assembly within no time and signed into law in haste to save former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, but a separation bill for Pims has been languishing in the parliament for the past three years.
Earlier, a letter written by the hospital’s administration to the CADD seeking action against the striking staffers had infuriated the protesters.
They threatened to go on a complete strike, including shutting down emergency services, if any punitive action was taken against them.
The letter had stated that the sorry state of affairs was causing extreme difficulties for patients and should not be allowed to continue.
“The voice of reason has failed to convince the strikers to continue their essential work. Strict action needs to be taken in light of this service being an essential service,” the hospital administration had recommended.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2017.
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Source: Tribune News | Parleys with CADD minister: Protesting staffers unswayed