Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai on Friday warned protesting doctors of departmental action against them which could lead to their removal from services.
Under the banner of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Doctors Council, the doctors in the province have been on strike for three consecutive days, demanding the registration of an FIR against Health Minister Hisham Inamullah Khan. They allege that Khan and his guards thrashed a general surgeon at the Khyber Teaching Hospital.
However, the government termed the protest as a tool to block the health department’s move to transfer doctors to their native districts in accordance with the law and warned them of action if they failed to resume duty immediately.
The minister on Friday told a press conference that lists of protesting doctors have been compiled and the government will start serving show-cause notices to them from today.
“We are still ready to hold dialogues with the protesting doctors,” he said.
“The government is not weak and reforms will be implemented at any cost. Action will be taken if governmental properties are targeted,” he warned.
He alleged that some people want to politicise the public health sector. Yousafzai said that the government was focusing on 50 doctors who have been creating problems.
The minister also expressed the government’s resolve to open OPDs (Outdoor Patients Departments) on Saturday at any cost.
“Full-proof security will be provided to those doctors who intend to serve patients in hospitals,” he said, adding that law enforcement personnel will be deployed heavily around the OPDs.
“Protest is everyone’s right but if someone wants to facilitate patients in the OPD, he or she should be allowed to do so. Those doctors who want to serve patients instead of protesting should not be disturbed.”
“Do not dare to [forcefully] close OPDs,” Yousafzai warned.
The minister said that some segments of the doctors’ fraternity were in contact with the government and have agreed to join work on the condition they are provided security.
Talking about the demands of the protesting doctors, he said that the police department will decide whether to lodge a first information report (FIR) or not. He added that the department was looking into the merits of the case and that the provincial government has no say in it.
However, he said that the government was ready to constitute an inquiry committee as per the wishes of the doctors but made it clear that the government would not remove the health minister or National Health Task Force head Prof Nausherwan Burki from their posts.
Addressing the doctors’ reservations about a proposed legislation on the provincial health sector, he said that the bill was still in the assembly for debate.
“If someone has an objection over it, we are open for talks,” he added.
Protesting doctors demand FIR against minister
The protesting doctors have asked the government to take action against the health minister for allegedly thrashing Dr Ziauddin Afridi, an assistant professor, at Khyber Teaching Hospital on Tuesday.
Dr Afridi, assistant professor at the KTH surgical ward, told the media that he was “intercepted by health minister Hisham Inamullah Khan, his adviser Dr Jawad Wasif, several armed guards and policemen. The minister started abusing me, tried to hit me twice but I stopped him. His guards began beating me with butts of guns”.
He said he pleaded them to stop but they didn’t listen and ultimately he fell unconscious and was taken to the operating theatre.
Just an hour before the incident, Dr Afridi came to a meeting being chaired by Prof Burki and attempted to share his grievances against the administration for not promoting him to the position of associate professor at Khyber Medical College. However, all of a sudden he threw eggs at Prof Burki and was subsequently taken out of the conference by police.
An hour later, the health minister arrived and held a meeting with the administration reportedly at the request of Prof Burki, who has been coming to Pakistan from the US every month to bring reforms in the health sector since 2013.
Finally the surgeon met the health minister who showed his resentment over the incident, leading to exchange of hot words and physical bouts and kicks. The guards immediately came into action and beat up the surgeon, who was then taken to the operating theatre for head and neck injuries.
Meanwhile, PPP members in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly have asked the health minister to resign and apologise for misuse of official powers.
In a joint statement, MPAs Ahmed Karim Kundi and Night Orakzai said on Thursday that armed guards of health minister beat and wounded senior doctors that brought a bad name to the lawmakers.
They said that PTI had promised before coming into powers to resolve all issues of doctors and provide quality healthcare system to facilitate the poor in the province but it failed to fulfil its commitment.