PESHAWAR: Grand Health Alliance, a conglomeration of doctors, nurses and paramedics, on Sunday observed black day on completion of one year of violence they suffered at the hands of police while protesting against the implementation of Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019.

The members of GHA wore black armbands in the hospitals and vowed to foil any attempt by the government to implement the RDHA law.

They said that they were united against all measures taken by the government to harm the health system. They said that they were ready to shut the health facilities for indefinite period.

However, the employees said that they would continue to serve the patients and wouldn’t allow anyone to play with the present healthcare system.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

The members of the alliance had assembled at Lady Reading Hospital on September 27, 2019 to march towards the provincial assembly to protest the proposed RDHA law but prior to their departure police resorted to baton charge, injuring 12 of them including Dr Zubair Zahir, a senior leader of GHA, and arrested 26 others, who were subsequently sent to Mardan jail.

GHA leader vows to resist regional and district health authorities law

The baton charge and incarceration of medics, strengthened their protest and the same law, which was passed by the provincial assembly the same day, is yet to be implemented as the continued agitation brought the province-wide healthcare system to virtually a standstill, prompting the government to put on hold the law.

The medics ended the strike after government assured them that the law would not be enforced.

The leaders of the alliance had learnt lesson from the previous tenure of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government in the province during which another controversial law called Medical Teaching Institutions Reforms Act, 2015 had been passed to pave way for establishment of Board of Governors (BoGs) at the designated tertiary care hospitals.

The law was challenged by stakeholders in the court that was ultimately cleared and now about 10 hospitals are covered under it.

There were a lot of small priests against the MTIRA but the government went ahead with its plan. The alliance leaders were gravely concerned about MTIRA due to which the managerial and financial affairs were given to BoGs instead of health department but they were unable to do anything except to stay silent.

When the PTI government won the 2018 elections, the architects of MTIRA pulled their sleeves to enforce another piece of legislation to be able to run the district health system through RDHA, which awakened the doctors, paramedics and nurses to stop repeat of their past mistake of remaining silent that enabled the government to implement MTIRA.

Therefore, the doctors, paramedics, nurses and other health staffers, who had their own associations, formed GHA and vowed to resist the government’s plan of enforcement of RDHA, which according to them would give extraordinary powers to the district and regional boards to make important decisions like the MTIRA, which entrusted unbridled powers to BoG to abolish posts and create new ones and spend the one-line budget they receive from government, in line with the needs of the hospitals.

According to the officials of health department, the government deferred implementation of RDHA law, after series of agitation by health professionals and was incorporating some amendments to make it acceptable to the stakeholders. It is a success of GHA to block the law despite its passage by the assembly.

A GHA leader said that they would stop all elective and emergency services if the government tried to enforce RDHA in its present shape. Unlike the MTIRA, which was implemented by the government, the law would never be allowed to see light of the day, he added.

He said that violence against health workers had created exemplary unity among them. Had the law been enforced, all the 50,000 employees and more than 1,500 health facilities would have come under the privet selected boards and the employees and patients would have ended up in precarious situation, he said.