LAHORE – After successful negotiations with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the Young Doctors Association on Sunday called off hunger strike, paving way for returning of normalcy at public sector hospitals.

The YDA leadership will meet the chief minister on February 25 to decide the date of convention at Jinnah Hospital for announcement of implementation of demands relating to welfare of patients and the medical community.

The CM assured the visiting delegation to give due consideration to demands relating to patients, revert decisions regarding termination and transfer of protesting doctors and would expedite pace on implementation of service structure. Young doctors remained on hunger strike for the last 14 days. During that period, leadership of political parties, representatives of civil society organizations and doctors bodies including Medical Teachers Association, General Cadre Doctors Association and Movement for Restoration of PMA visited the hunger strike camp and expressed solidarity with the protesting doctors.

A delegation of YDA met the chief minister in Model Town and announced calling off strike after assurance from the chief executive of the province to resolve the problems. The CM directed the officials to take steps for provision of free medicine and diagnostic facilities at government hospitals, revert decisions regarding termination and transfer of doctors, withdraw attempt to murder FIR against young doctors in Gujranwala incident and expedite implementation on service structure.

Welcoming the YDA announcement, the CM termed it a good omen for the health sector and said that going on strike was not a good attitude as doctors belong to a noble profession of serving the ailing humanity.

YDA delegation comprises Dr Nasir Abbas, Dr Hamid Butt, Dr Usman Dar, Dr Rai Ahmed and others. Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Special Assistant to CM on Health Kh Salman Rafiq, Secretary Health Arif Nadeem, Vice Chancellor King Edward Medical College University Prof Faisal Masood and Director General Health Punjab were also present.

Shahbaz said the word of strike should not be in the dictionary of doctors and they should earn the blessings of the people by serving the ailing humanity. He said that the promises made by the Punjab government for the welfare of doctors would be honored.

He said that the target of the government as well as the medical community was to improve the system of health and both of them would have to move towards. He said that he would fully support the doctors in the development of health sector. He constituted a committee headed by Pervaiz Rasheed and comprising representatives of doctors and government officials, saying it would consider issues like provision of free medicines, repair of machinery, improvement of healthcare system and solution of problems of doctors and submit its recommendations on February 25.

The chief minister said the government was committed to the service of humanity and has spent billions of rupees on the provision of treatment facilities to the people during the last four and a half years. He said that an additional burden of nine billion rupees was being borne by the government due to increase in the salaries of doctors, paramedical staff and nurses.

Shahbaz said the raise given by Punjab government in salaries was unprecedented and despite this the highest rate of strikes of doctors in Punjab was beyond understanding. He said that present government revived the dialysis facility for the poor patients which was withdrawn during Musharraf regime and airlift the machinery required for this purpose.

He said that billions of rupees were provided from discretionary fund for the liver and kidney transplant of poor and deserving patients. He said that air-conditions were installed for the benefit of poor patients in hospitals at a cost of Rs 2 billion. He said that there was a need to remove disparity between the rich and the poor in the provision of medical facilities and it was possible only if the government and doctors made joint and sincere efforts.

The chief minister said a country where free treatment was available to president, prime minister, chief ministers, ministers, generals, judges, and politicians while the poor were denied even basic health facilities could not be called an Islamic welfare state. He said that doctors, paramedical staff and nurses worked round the clock during the outbreak of dengue and brought this menace under control.

He said that it was time to sink the bitterness of the past and make collective efforts for the development of healthcare system. He said that the sad incident at Gujranwala tarnished the image of medical community and the demands of justice would be fulfilled. He said that the government has good intentions and has taken effective and sincere steps for the uplift of health sector.

Shahbaz said the salaries of doctors, paramedical staff and nurses had been increased and reforms had been introduced in their service structure. He said that problems of doctors would be resolved so that they could serve the ailing humanity with peace of mind.

Referring to the steps taken by Punjab government for the promotion of simplicity, he said that an austerity committee has been established for this purpose. He said that no new vehicle has been purchased for CM Secretariat and he even avoided spending money on out of order helicopter.

He said that federal and Balochistan governments purchased helicopters and aeroplanes worth billions of rupees. He said the Punjab government had spent funds for the service of the people considering national resources as a sacred trust.

The chief minister said no doubt mistakes were made but there was need to learn from them and move ahead for the improvement of healthcare system. He further said that the class discrimination was needed to be eliminated for making Pakistan an Islamic welfare state. He said that cooperation of doctors was essential for the development of healthcare system and to deal with the new challenges in this sector.

Pervaiz Rashid said Shahbaz had taken unprecedented measures for the betterment of young doctors. He said that contract doctors had been regularised, their salaries had been increased while the issue of service structure had been resolved. He said that the salaries of doctors in Punjab were higher compared to that in other provinces.

The senator said despite all these sincere efforts, the conduct and attitude of doctors was not proper. He said doctors pushed themselves into a blind alley by their own behavior and Shahbaz Sharif had helped bring them out of this difficult situation.

Office-bearers of YDA paid tributes to Shahbaz Sharif on efforts for the uplift of health sector and betterment of doctors’ community. Dr Nasir Abbas said Shahbaz Sharif had been like a fatherly figure and the measures taken during the last four and a half years were unprecedented. He said that the sad incident at Gujranwala has brought a bad name to medical community.

Dr Hamid Butt said that the efforts made by Punjab government for the welfare of doctors were unmatched.

Dr Usman Dar said that CM was kind to everyone and had adopted effective measures for the development of health sector. The YDA invited the CM to participate in doctors’ convention which he accepted. Young doctors also presented bouquets to the CM who brought an end to the hunger strike by offering juice.

The CM thanked the young doctors on calling off strike. The doctors apologised on their previous attitude and assured the CM not to go on strike in future. They also thanked the CM and said that he has given them respect like a kind father and spared precious time for them.

The CM referring to the healthcare system of Cuba said that this was the best system of the world and desired that such excellent healthcare system should also be enforced in Pakistan. Mentioning metro bus project, Shahbaz Sharif said that this has been started for common man and he would also travel by bus. He said that this project was a glorious example of elimination of class disparity.

Various doctors bodies including GCDA and MTA welcomed the decision, saying it would help improving healthcare service delivery at hospitals. MTA Punjab General Secretary Dr Tahseen Riaz said that resolution of the issue was good for medical community and the ailing humanity. He said that young doctors were backbone of health system and they would play their due role in provision of treatment to the poor patients.

GCDA President Dr Masood said the resolution of the issue would help improving working atmosphere at hospitals that would ultimately benefit the ailing humanity.