Editorial : Pinning blame - Sunday, April 10, 2011

The strike by young doctors which recently ended in Punjab will not simply fade away. It leaves behind ghosts which will stay with us for some time and questions that require responses. The chief justice of the Lahore High Court has made it clear that the matter cannot simply be shelved. Justice Ijaz Ahmed Nabi has asked the chief secretary to set up a commission to look into the matter of who is to be held responsible for the deaths of over 20 adult patients and, according to some reports, up to 41 children at the Children’s Hospital alone. The court has made it clear that it is displeased by the lack of swift action on the part of the Punjab government to resolve the crisis before so many people had died. The role of the health secretary has been criticised in particular. Meanwhile, all kinds of other opinions are coming forward. The Young Doctors’ Association which organised the strike has stated that in failing to establish reasonable salaries for doctors, considerable damage has been done over the years. Many have left for the Middle East and other destinations as a result of this failure. The fact is that even after completing up to six years in medical college, doctors can expect to be paid far less than their counterparts in other professions. In some cases, their pay remains below Rs 20,000. In this day and age, even junior office workers usually take home more than this.

But then there is the flip side of the coin. The ethics involved in the medical profession cannot simply be put aside when a strike is called or other protest action initiated. There have been accounts of doctors harassing those colleagues who continued to treat patients during the strike. Some are reported to have been beaten up for attempting to do so. In other cases, patients were told to go home. Even those in emergency wards were, in some cases, denied the treatment they urgently needed. The commission being set up should also take up these issues. It is clear that a great deal has gone wrong with the practice of medicine in our country. In some ways, the recent strike served to highlight this. Policies need to be reviewed and the actions of the YDA need to be assessed. Perhaps the court hearing can lead to this being achieved and improvements being made to a system that has failed to deliver what people need. 

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=40925&Cat=8

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