ISLAMABAD: Doctors and paramedical staff of public hospitals in Islamabad are observing a strike for a second consecutive day on Wednesday against the freezing of their risk health allowance.
The protesters have vowed to continue their sit-in at NADRA Crossing until their demand for resuming the allowance is met by the government. On Tuesday, ugly scenes were witnessed at Nadra Crossing, where a clash between police and protesters demanding restoration of health risk allowance left 25 doctors, nurses, other paramedical and non-medical staff injured and hospitalised, and another 15 arrested.
“The emergencies of all federal government hospitals will remain closed with effect from Wednesday, and will reopen only after all our three demands are met.
We want restoration of the health risk allowance; release of arrested doctors, nurses, and paramedical and non-medical staff; and suspension of all police personnel who targeted the peaceful protesters,” Joint Action Committee Chairman Dr. Sartaj Ali Khan stated.
The Joint Action Committee (JAC) is an umbrella organisation of all federal government hospitals, including the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), Federal Government Services Hospital (FGSH), CDA Hospital, National Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine (NIRM) and Federal General Hospital.
The JAC had given a 48-hour ultimatum to the government for fulfilment of its demand for restoration of the health risk allowance. When the deadline lapsed on Monday, it issued a call for a sit-in outside the Prime Minister’s Secretariat on Tuesday.
The protesters represented every cadre of the medical profession ranging from doctors, professors, nurses and medical officers to technicians, cleaners and lower staff of all federal government hospitals.
As the protesters marched towards Nadra Crossing, they were intercepted by police, well ahead of Red Zone, and subjected to baton-charge. Over 25 protesters were injured as a result of police action; and 15 were arrested from the site and taken away in police vehicles.
“The police action was totally unwarranted. They resorted to ‘lathi-charge,’ dragged the protesters on the road, and pelted stones at them. They did not even spare women,” alleged Dr. Sartaj, who had just returned to the protest site after being treated for a fractured right shoulder.
Suspension of the allowance entails a minimum loss of Rs4,000 and maximum loss of Rs30,000 for beneficiaries, it is learnt.
The allowance offers a certain degree of protection to health workers and paramedical staff, who remain exposed to dangerous viruses and face the threat of contracting fatal illnesses from patients admitted to hospitals.