KP govt releases 15 doctors; GHA vows to continue protest until all demands met

October 11, 2019

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Friday released 15 detained doctors after an agreement between a delegation of senior doctors and the health department was reached.

Among the many demands put forth by the Grand Health Alliance of doctors, besides the release of detained health officials, was the revocation of the Regional and District Health Authorities (RDHA) Act, 2019.

Other demands included the registration of cases against Dr Nosherwan Burki and health minister Dr Hisham Inamullah, reversal of the RDHA Law, end to the role of Dr Burki in KP’s health sector, and removal of the health minister.

Accepting the one demand asking for the release of the doctors, the government announced they were being let go without any conditions.

A doctor celebrates his release along with his well wishers. — Photo provided by author
A doctor celebrates his release along with his well wishers. — Photo provided by author

The doctors had been kept imprisoned at Mardan Jail and were released following a withdrawal of the Section-3 of the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance by the Peshawar deputy commissioner.

Meanwhile, the Alliance announced that “while the rest of the demands are under review by the government”, they would continue to stage their protest.

Violent clashes

On September 27, the Grand Health Alliance, a grouping of doctors, paramedics, nurses and other health staff, had staged a protest at the Lady Reading Hospital against the RDHA Act, which they had described as “nothing short of privatisation of government hospitals”. Violent clashes between the protesters took place that day, injuring 15 medical staff and eight policemen. 15 doctors were also arrested.

The following day, a case was registered against 26 doctors, for “disrupting the peaceful hospital environment and engaging in stone-pelting of police officers”.

In an unprecedented move, the government had subsequently banned the gathering of five people and more on the LRH premises under Section 144 to avoid any disruption in patient facilitation for a period of 10 days.

The doctors, who had already boycotted OPDs and other services at government hospitals and private clinics, had threatened they would completely boycott emergency services across the entire province if their demands are not met.

The doctors had also demanded a judicial probe into the clashes with police.

What is the Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019?

Under the Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019, that was passed by the KP Assembly on Friday, health authorities will be established by the government at regional and district levels.

The federal and provincial governments will provide funds to each authority which will report to a policy board chaired by the KP health minister. The regional authorities will have the power to:

  • ensure that objectives set by Regional Health Authority (RHA) are achieved and oversee effective management and issue strategic directions to health facilities in the assigned region.
  • approve budget of RHA and allocate funds to health facilities
  • oversee health service delivery
  • implement government policies and directions
  • ensure that its programmes are effective and efficient
  • ensure transparency

The law also dictates that the doctors that are already serving, will continue to be treated as civil servants and will be entitled to pension and other such benefits. The regional health authority will have the authority to transfer doctors as per need in health facilities in their respective districts of domicile.

The law further says that the existing cadre will be treated as the “dying cadre” and will continue until the retirement of the last civil servant, after which the posts will be abolished and regional authorities will have the power to create positions and recruit as per regulations.

Dawn

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