PESHAWAR: The strike of doctors, nurses and paramedics entered 10th day on Saturday as the Grand Health Alliance refused to accept the release of its detained members in return for an end to the strike in public sector hospitals.
The protesters said they wouldn’t budge until the government withdrew the Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019.
They feared that if they called off the strike, the government would begin enforcing the RDHA.
Protesters refuse to budge until RDHA Act withdrawn
On Friday, the Peshawar High Court had granted conditional interim bail to around 16 doctors and paramedics, who were arrested under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) Ordinance on Sept 27, asking them to produce good conduct bonds and promise not to protest during duty hours.
As the strike continued, services at around 15,000 health centres across the province except emergency ones remained suspended.
GHA leader Dr Salim Yousafzai said the doctors and paramedics continued to treat mother and child, cancer, heart and chronic diseases, inpatients, and ICU, CCU and emergency cases.
He said radiology, pathology and other investigative departments operated round-the-clock.
“The duty boycott doesn’t cause any human loss as it has been restricted to outpatient departments only, where people with non-emergency problems come,” he said.
The GHA leader said the PHC’s observation during a hearing had confirmed that the doctors and paramedics hadn’t done anything wrong.
“Our detained members have begun a hunger strike in the Central Jail, Mardan, as one of them wasn’t allowed to attend his uncle’s funeral,” he said.
According to Dr Salim, doctors, nurses, paramedics and allied staff were thrashed by police a week ago outside the Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar, for holding a peaceful march on the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly against RDHA, non-implementation of the inquiries conducted on the Supreme Court orders into irregularities in medical teaching institutions, delay in the sacking of health minister Hisham Inamullah Khan for committing violence against Dr Ziauddin Afridi and removal of Dr Nausherwan Barki for paving the way for the privatisation of health institutions through arbitrary legislation.
“We thank the high court for confirming our position that we didn’t resort to violence. The government failed to produce evidence showing that we damaged property. Our members are innocent, so they should be freed,” Dr Salim said.
The hospitals have witnessed three strikes in the last few months. The strikes came to an end after protesters met the government’s representatives.
Last time, the health employees resumed duty after weeklong protest last May when the chief minister formed two committees, one including three ministers to discuss RDHA with stakeholders and another under the home department to probe the torture of Dr Ziauddin by the health minister. Both committees have yet to finish their respective tasks.
Dr Salim said the RDHA, which was designed by the government to run the district-based hospitals like MTIs, would deteriorate health delivery system in the province.
He said the MTI-covered hospitals hadn’t showed service improvement during the last five years, then how it could be extended to other facilities.