Protesting doctors enter health secretariat in Lahore, get police thrashing

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LAHORE: The young doctors clashed with the police at Punjab Health Secretariat on Friday after their overnight hunger strike camp outside the office of secretary Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education (SCH&ME).

The young doctors, nurses and paramedical staff, under the banner of Grand Health Alliance (GHA), Punjab, held a hunger strike camp at Health Secretariat against health authorities’ incompetence and inefficiency to provide protective gear to the healthcare professionals working at isolation wards for treatment of coronavirus patients in the province.

However, things started to aggravate when the protesting medics brought forward a political agenda and demanded reinstatement of suspended doctors and raise in salaries.

Young Doctors Association (YDA), Punjab Senior Vice President Dr Shoaib Niazi released a list of YDA office-bearers suspended during their last agitation movement against Medical Teaching Institutes (Reforms) Act.

The Health Department officials said that the young doctors had demanded protective kits for medics in the beginning, but then they started making other demands including restoration of their suspended colleagues, and additional incentives for all doctors. Besides, the officials said, they demanded shifting of doctors, who had tested positive for coronavirus, to five star hotel rooms after converting them into quarantines.

The Health Department officials said it was not time for the healthcare providers to do politics on the pandemic when the government and health machinery were fighting against the common enemy of coronavirus.

As the young doctors, nurses and paramedical staff started agitating aggressively under the leadership of GHA Chairman and YDA President Dr Salman Haseeb and Paramedical Staff Association (PSA) Punjab Chairman Arshad Butt, the health authorities called police for maintaining peace at the secretariat.

The special secretary health said that young doctors, nurses and paramedical staff had occupied the whole health secretariat. “We called police for our protection, not for arrests,” he added.

Meanwhile, the police thrashed the doctors and locked them in the health secretariat. The doctors also called their colleagues from the city hospitals to help them. A large number of doctors, nurses and paramedics staged a protest demonstration outside the secretariat.

The young doctors claimed that the police failed to end their hunger strike camp as protesters reorganised themselves. They promised that they would continue to provide full services to all patients in general and coronavirus wards in hospitals, but also vowed to carry on their protest until their demands were fulfilled.