Doctors working in public hospitals across the province will again resort to boycott from their duties from February 13. The Sindh chapters of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and Young Doctors Association (YDA) announced on Monday the protest as they blamed the Sindh government for either reneging from the promise of accepting their demands or unjustifiably procrastinating.
The boycott will affect outpatient departments and the medical wards in all the public hospitals in Sindh. But representatives of the PMA and the YDA said they will ensure that the emergency departments function round-the-clock.
'Sindh government will be responsible for any inconvenience or problem caused to patients during the boycott,' warned PMA Sindh's General Secretary Dr Pir Manzoor Ali at a press conference in Hyderabad Press Club on Monday.
The doctors have been demanding salaries and allowances, equal to their counterparts in Punjab. They also want promotions, regularisation of contractual doctors and an end to rampant corruption in the health department.
The joint action committee, which represents different associations of doctors, boycotted the hospitals for three days last month, compelling the provincial health minister and secretary to take to the negotiating table.
On January 30, the doctors withdrew their call for the boycott after a meeting with the health authorities which assured them that their demands would be accepted. The government had reportedly agreed to promote 2,000 to 2,500 doctors to the higher grades starting from BS-18 to BS-20.
'We were assured that the notifications will be issued within three days but so far 12 days have passed without any development,' bemoaned Dr Ali. He stressed that no new round of negotiations will be held with the provincial government. 'We are giving them one day [February 12] to issue the notifications, else we will go ahead with the boycott.' Dr Abid Qaimkhani, Dr Gulzar Jumani and office bearers of the associations accompanied Dr Ali.
Later in the day, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah announced that doctors would be given salary packages at par with their counterparts in Punjab.
CM directed Chief Secretary Mumtaz Ali Shah to take necessary measures for increasing the salary packages. 'Once the exercise is carried out, place it in the next cabinet meeting's agenda so that it could be discussed and approved,' he directed the chief secretary.
The chief minister said that the Punjab government had already carried out such an exercise, which had been approved by the Punjab cabinet. 'We need to ensure that our doctors get remunerated at par with the doctors in Punjab,' said the CM.
The Chief Secretary has conveyed the instructions of the chief minister to the health department, which will calculate the salaries and allowances of doctors in Sindh, compare them with the doctors in Punjab and other provinces and submit a detailed report along with its financial impact for the next cabinet meeting.