Doctors suspend health services at Peshawar hospitals

PESHAWAR: Doctors continued their protest on Friday for the second straight day by suspending health services at public sector hospitals in the provincial capital over what they called the “lack of transparency” of the Sehat Sahulat Card program and the dismissal of a doctor in the Lady Reading Hospital.

The Young Doctors Association (YDA) called for a strike in public sector hospitals. They have warned to expand their protest to the outskirts, including district headquarters hospitals, from Monday if their demands are not granted.

The protesting doctors started their agitation in Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) and Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) and forcibly suspended services in the Outpatient Departments (OPDs).

A large number of patients had come from different places to the hospitals and were waiting in long queues to get OPD vouchers.

IT and office workers, who are not part of medical associations, were also not available in their seats.

During the protest, senior consultants avoided visiting DPOs in hospitals. Health Minister Taimur Jhagra later became aware of the issue and approached the HMC administration to restore services.

The hospital administration then took over the services in the OPDs.

The health minister has asked doctors to focus on their core responsibilities to serve their patients and leave the politics to the politicians.

At Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH), the protesting doctors were quite aggressive and suspended OPDs for a few hours.

“Some of the doctors later returned to the OPDs, but as it was Friday most of the patients had left when they saw the doctors were on strike. There was no one at the hospital to hire the protesting doctors and some of the doctors left the hospital while others sat in their offices,” said a hospital official who had already left.

YDA spokesperson Dr Faisal Barakzai said they did not want to suspend OPD services as they knew it would cause suffering to patients. He said they had used other means to resolve the issues peacefully, but that didn’t help.

He accused the LRH administration of having fired Dr. Kiramat, a trainee doctor, working in the plastic surgery department without any valid reason.

Dr Barakzai said doctors at LRH had staged a sit-in a few weeks ago against their eviction from the doctors’ hostel and were spending the nights in the open outside the hospital. He added that one of the TMOs, Dr Kiramat, spoke on a TV station and criticized the hospital administration when reporters visited them.

According to Dr. Barakzai, the LRH administration fired him without investigation or compliance with rules and regulations. He said the hospital administration did not issue a show cause notice and immediately issued his dismissal orders.

He said they demanded that the hospital administration implement the findings of the commission of inquiry against the hospital’s deputy director, Tariq Burki, and provost Jamil Shah.

“The hospital had itself opened investigations and formed a committee to investigate the allegations made against Tariq Burki and Jamil Shah. But no action was taken against them,” he explained. Dr Barakzai said YDA had called for a third-party audit of the Sehat Sahulat Card scheme in which billions of rupees were spent on behalf of free healthcare services.

“We have raised issues in the Sehat Sahulat Card program and exposed the misuse of public resources in the name of free services. Ill-equipped health centers lacking basic facilities have been recorded in the Sehat card program where trained doctors are not available and patients are operated on by unqualified people and substandard drugs are given to them” , said the head of the YDA.

Mohammad Asim, media director of LRH, dismissed Dr Barakzai’s version and called it baseless allegations.

He said the hospital administration assigned the hostel to female OMTs as it was close to the hospital. “Each of the TMOs get Rs 15,000 rent and they can live anywhere, but the female doctors had accommodation problems so the hospital administration decided to give them the hostel,” a- he explained.

Asim said he was invited to a talk show on a local TV channel where TMO Dr Kiramat sat with him and used harsh language against LRH, its administration and especially Dr Nausherwan Burki , Chairman BoG, and also raised some issues in the Sehat. Sahulat card program.

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