Ernest Dempsey — Of all the threats to humanity, greed is a fundamental one that kills on all levels – individual, social, spiritual, and of course, physical. This latter is seen painfully clear in the strike of government-employed doctors in Punjab province where at least a dozen people kept dying daily when the protests started about 3 weeks ago. These doctors, called ‘young doctors’, want a rise in salaries and other benefits. And as their demands are not granted by the provincial government, they go on strike off and on throughout the province, refusing to see patients, including tending to patients in emergency rooms.
Patients kept dying and suffering with disease, crying for help; but the doctors haven’t been paying any heed. Not only have these mobs of young doctors refused to work – though not resigning from their jobs – but have deterred other doctors from working too, those who wanted to continue serving the patients. This vandalism went way too far this time when a doctor in the emergency room of a hospital in Lahore (provincial capital of Punjab) removed the drip of a boy, two to three years of age, who was fighting for life on his death bed. Removing the drip was part of the doctor’s protest, signaling that no mercy will be shown to anyone if demands for higher pay and benefits weren’t met. This caused the death of the child. The doctor allegedly responsible for removing the drip has been arrested and charged with murder while a few of his companion doctors have also been arrested to complete the investigation. Sadly, it is common knowledge what happens to investigations in Pakistan.
The recent strike, starting in the third week of June, has two frightening features: it shows no mercy to patients’ suffering; and it segues into mob mentality by forcing any doctor from doing their duty. Quite often it is reminded on TV talk shows and in papers’ stories that these doctors, while entering their jobs, take oath to do their best to serve humanity and relieve sufferings. Obviously, it is for securing the job that many of them hurry off to take the oath and start a bank account. They know what pay they will be getting and how it will vary with time. Yet, they cunningly occupy their positions and act like a mafia to blackmail the government for getting benefits. The threat reads: “pay us more or we will make the masses suffer and they will rise against you.”
The mob mentality is also shamefully manifest here. If a doctor, who is not part of the greedy mob of his fellow workers, wants to carry on serving the patients, they physically thwart him and force him into protest or at least staying off the workplace. A terrifying outcome is the contagious nature of this deadly exploitation by doctors. So far, these kinds of protests almost always start in Punjab province, mostly in Lahore. But doctors in other parts of the country are also learning to use the ploy. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, doctors have started reflecting the “more for us too” cry and many went on a protest recently after seeing the force of this madness in Punjab on media, though they didn’t stop seeing patients – which is commendable.
On the whole, doctors on strike in Punjab have again proved the general belief that these ‘healers’ are not sincere with their sacred profession nor have they any compassion for humanity; that to get a rise in pay – which already is much higher than it should have been in a country like Pakistan – some of them will not quiver in putting a child to death with their own hands. And it happened – in this country, inside an emergency room: the murder of a child who had not done anybody any harm; just fighting for his tender life in the emergency where he never knew that the healers wearing white coats can get as deadly as the butcher who slaughters for money.
Sorry humanity, the healers have failed you!