LHC displeased with Punjab health secy

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LAHORE – Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry on Thursday expressed displeasure at the appointment of Punjab Health Secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad and summoned the Punjab chief secretary to appear in court in person today (Friday) to explain the deteriorating condition of healthcare in hospitals because of the young doctors’ strike.
The chief justice also summoned the Young Doctors Association (YDA) president to explain the legal grounds of the establishment of the association. Chaudhry said whosoever was responsible for causing the closure of hospitals would face the music. He said that within 24 hours, the chief minister had suspended officers such as commissioners but despite the passage of 36 days, the Punjab government had not taken any action against the person responsible in this case, alluding to the health secretary.
He stated that it was a complete failure on the part of Punjab government that it could not control the crisis in healthcare facilities, and that those responsible for it were playing with people’s lives. The health secretary told the court that the government had engaged the protesting doctors since the first day of the strike. He admitted that the patients had suffered because of the strike but said the government was trying its best to minimise their suffering. He said the demand of the protesting doctors was a raise in their salaries, which, at present, was impossible.
He said it would only be possible through the finance bill, which would be applicable from the next fiscal year but the doctors were demanding an immediate notification of a raise. He said the government also had to keep the salaries of the paramedic and nursing staff in view while increasing the salaries of the doctors.
Fawad told the court that when the doctors began their strike in emergency rooms on March 31, the government had restored emergency treatment within three days. He said senior doctors were also taken into confidence to bring the young doctors back to the hospitals. He said so far the government had asked some doctors from Basic Health Units to serve in emergency rooms and some of the protesting doctors had returned to work as well.
He said a meeting was being held with the protesting doctors at Chief Minister’s Secretariat at the moment and hopefully there would be a way out. Counsel for the petitioner Manzoor Qadir, a journalist, stated that young doctors were harassing the doctors who were willing to perform their duties at the hospitals and were verbally abusing female doctors to stop them from working. He claimed that 200 patients had died because of the doctors’ strike so far. He said that in 2009, some doctors were also terminated but after they submitted their apologies they were restored.
He said that after termination, the government should ban the doctors’ entry into hospitals so that smooth functioning could be restored. He said the government had given a lot of leeway to the protesting doctors who were taking the law into their own hands and endangering people’s lives. An additional advocate general appearing in court said that some doctors were inducted on an ad-hoc basis and in case the doctors did not return to the hospitals, they would treat patients at private hospitals.