LAHORE - Fearing resistance from number-strong opposition in the Punjab Assembly and protests from medics during the legislation process, the government has implemented ‘health reforms’ through an ordinance.

Though proposed draft of Punjab Medical Teaching Institutions (Reforms) Act had already been finalised, the same has not been submitted to the provincial legislature, apparently for saving time likely to be consumed in discussion and approval. During the lengthy process of legislation, the opponents of reforms could hamper service delivery at hospitals and come to the streets.

As a precaution, the government has banned all sorts of political activities, gatherings in hospitals/educational institutions.

Rejecting the promulgation of Punjab Medical Teaching Institutions (Reforms) Ordinance 2019, the Young Doctors Association (YDA) and Grand Health Alliance (GHA) have vowed to resist its implementation at all levels.

Doctors’ bodies announce protest against ‘anti-patient’ act

The ordinance applicable on medical teaching institutions across the province will come into force at once. A Provincial Policy Board comprising up to 7 members will oversee and supervise the functioning of MTIs. The members will not be government officers, and will be selected on the recommendation of Search and Nomination Committee for three years’ each. Chairperson will be elected.

The board will ensure minimum service delivery standard, keep and maintain e-record of medical services, updated e-inventories, audit of medical and other records and recommend policies for improvement of MTIs. It will meet thrice in a year in addition to an annual meeting.

The Board of Governors (BoGs) will control and supervise the functioning of MTIs. The BoG, assisted by Secretary of the Board, will comprise up to 7 members. The Management Committee will comprise of Hospital Director, Medical Director, Nursing Director, Finance Director and two persons nominated by the board on the recommendation of the dean. The MTI being a constituent college is subject to a Universities Act, the Vice Chancellor of the University will head the Management Committee with the Dean acting as the deputy-head.

Under the MTI, doctors and paramedical staff will be appointed on double the salary package, and doctors will be allowed to conduct private practices in the hospitals.

However, the doctors practicing outside the hospital will have to forego professional medical allowances from salary package. Initially, there will be a choice for healthcare professionals from the two types of service structures - the one with better pay, and the previous one under existing rules.

The Punjab government has banned political activities at hospitals to check protests from doctors and allied health staff.

In a letter to vice chancellors of medical universities, principals of autonomous medical colleges, heads of specializsd healthcare institutions and medical superintendents of teaching hospitals, the Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Department has directed concrete measures for ensuring un-interrupted healthcare service delivery.

“Some troublemakers in the hospitals are trying to disrupt provision of healthcare services delivery to the patients by using unfair means. This situation is intolerable. Keeping it in view, the Competent Authority further passed the directions to ban protests and rallies by any forum working in hospitals/educational institutions and ban on displaying anti-government banners, posters and other means”, the letter reads.

Medics bodies have rejected the ordinance, terming it anti-patients. Addressing a press conference at Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), YDA President Dr Qasim Awan condemned government’s attempt to enforce a law, which has already been rejected by all professional medical bodies as anti-patients and anti-doctors legislation.

Flanked by YDA General Secretary Dr Salman Haseeb, GHA representatives Hafiz Dilawar and Aashiq Ghaus, he termed it a big injustice to run public hospitals, established on public’s tax money, in a private manner.

YDA representatives from PIC, Services Hospital, Mayo Hospital, Jinnah Hospital, Lahore General Hospital, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, nurses and paramedics were also present. YDA and GHA leadership vowed to resist the implementation of ‘black law’.

 “The government has stripped thousands of doctors, nurses, paramedics and allied health professionals of their civil servant status with a stroke of pen,” they said, adding, the government had privatized the healthcare services, which will deprive the poor patients of their basic right to health free of cost.

“Majority of population does not afford private treatment therefore the new law will tantamount to giving death sentence to poor patients,” they added. They announced holding GHA Punjab’s meeting on September 5 and also convene YDA Punjab’s central and general council meeting on September 6 with options to besiege Governor’s House and Punjab Assembly to put pressure on government to withdraw the ordinance. They also announced starting a full-scale province-wide protest movement after Ashura, and also take the legal route to stop implementation of this anti-patient law.