5-day employees’ strike leaves Islamabad’s top health institute paralyzed

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More than 5,000 patients daily return unattended
Zubair Qureshi

Friday was another day of strike, another black day, 5th in a row, for the patients and their relatives, as doctors, nurses, paramedics and employees of the country’s premiere health facility Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) did not return to work and continued to press for their demands.
According to a report issued by Federal Ombudsman’s office, daily more than 5,000 patients visit PIMS and almost half of them return unattended. If we rely on that figure, more than 40,000 patients have, so far returned to their homes sick and tired without being looked after. Similarly, around 700 operations were postponed due to the protest. A meeting scheduled between the protesters and Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry could not be materialized due to lack of will on both sides.
Meanwhile, CADD Minister on Friday rushed to his colleague in Cabinet, Law Minister Zahid Hamid and requested him to expedite legislation on administrative separation of the hospital from the university (Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University). The meeting lasted for over an hour. CADD Ministry, he said, has prepared a bill and soon it will be submitted before the Prime Minister through Ministry of Law. Zahid Hamid also assured the Minister that all the legal formalities have been finalized and soon the bill would be tabled in the Parliament. After the meeting, the Minister held a separate meeting with the office-bearers and representatives of the PIMS employees. He requested them to end strike and go back to their work so that patients should not suffer.
Pims employees have been protesting since Monday and are demanding that the hospital be separated from the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Medical University administristatively. CADD minister Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry met with the protestors on Wednesday and it was decided that a dialogue session would be held in the ministry Thursday at 11am. However, when the delegation got to the ministry at 12:30 it was informed that the minister had left for the National Assembly session.
Another option suggested by the spokesperson for the Pims Employees Association Dr Asfandyar Khan was that table the bill tabled in 2014 by MNA Major (R) Tahir Iqbal for the separation of the hospital from the university should be sent to the prime minister and after his approval, it should be tabled in parliament. He said the strike would not be called off till the employees are assured this long standing issue will be addressed. During the PPP government, parliament passed the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University, Islamabad Bill 2013 amid criticism and protest by the then opposition, PML-N and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
The bill was moved by the then minister for CADD Nazar Mohammad Gondal. Under the bill, PIMS was upgraded to a medical university and was empowered to confer degrees, diplomas, certificates and other academic distinctions. However, the then welfare hospital was affiliated with the university’s hospital and the status of its employees, who were civil servants, was gradually changed and they have been offered to become employees of the university.