The Punjab government on Monday might be flexing its muscles over what it considered to be a success by announcing a pay package worth Rs 5.2 billion for the protesting doctors and paramedics, while the latter are expected to ‘react’ on Tuesday after their consulatory meeting.
This is the third attempt on the part of the government to woo the estranged medics, who deem that they had been betrayed on different occasions. Result: People suffered, as for the first time in the country’s history, public hospitals virtually remained dysfunctional for around 40 days.
Last month, hundreds of doctors resigned and went on strike after the provincial government failed to meet once-promised demands for better pays and service structure and compensation as per education, leaving hospitals virtually crippled and failing to administer medication. The Young Doctors Association Punjab, claiming to have 8,000 members, demanded a minimum monthly salary of Rs 90,000, including regularisation of employment contracts. Now the YDA has support of some bigwigs of the field, like Principal Allama Iqbal Medical College Prof Javed Akram, who had threatened leading long march for getting the demands actualised.
When the YDA raised the issues with the Punjab government, a committee headed by Zulfiqar Khosa, held parleys and reached an agreement, which was later on rejected, and this made the doctors took to streets, leaving patients and hospitals to be managed by ex-Secretary Health Fawad Hassan Fawad, and muscle flexing medic-cum-MPA Dr Saeed Elahi. At one time, both were hand in glove with the YDA, and this time, perhaps knowingly docs’ prowess, were bent upon teaching a lesson to the Frankenstein, certainly gone beyond their control. Terminations, arrests and new recruitments were made, but again meetings were started.
One such meeting was held at ‘official’ compound of ex-Nazim Mian Amir Mehmood, and both parties agreed to resolve the crisis through dialogue. However, the Elahi-Fawad duo tried to keep apace retributional measures, which razed the mended fences, and doctors went for afresh offence since the latter felt betrayed for the second time.
Then another Zulfiqar Khosa-led cabinet committee was formed by Shahbaz Sharif, and doctors called off their strike after assurance that the government would meet their demands.
This time again, Senior Advisor to Chief Minister Punjab, Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa on Monday has told the mediamen that the CM had given approval to pay package of Rs 5.2 billion by accepting the recommendations of cabinet committee after consultation with representatives of young doctors and paramedic associations. He said the government had allocated a huge amount for health sector according to the available resources under which the health expenditure would be increased from Rs 13 billion to Rs 38 billion during the next three years. Khosa expected that after the announcement of ‘big financial package’, the doctors would perform duties instead of resorting to protests.
Under this package, Rs 6,000 would be increased in the stipend of a House Officer and this stipend would be virtually jumped from Rs 18,000 to Rs 24,000. An increase of Rs 22,500 had been approved in the stipend of post-graduate students and their stipend would be increased from Rs 22,000 to Rs 42,000. An increase of Rs 15,000 would be made in the salaries of medical officers and dental surgeons of Grade-17, and Rs 3370 per month would be given them as pay protection. An approval to the increase of Rs 10,000 has been given in the salaries of doctors serving in Grade 18, 19 and 20. Resultantly, an expenditure of Rs 376 million will be incurred on the promotion of paramedic staff under four tier formula. In addition, Rs 239m will be incurred on pay protection of nurses.
Moreover, a special cell has been set up in the Health Department for taking action on the pending promotion cases of doctors. In addition, a special committee has been constituted comprising all stake holders for revising service structure of doctors and paramedics of health department, which is expected to formulate its recommendation at the earliest.
However, it is imperative that both PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif must figure out black sheep in their subordinate ranks, who are constantly dishing out ill-conceived advices aimed at creating mess and troubles for the government, which should not be facing such uncalled for crisis at this juncture.