After an uneasy calm of about a month, doctors in Lahore are stirring once again. More than a year has gone by but the government has chosen to ignore the issue of framing a career structure for doctors. This is important not only for health professionals but also for the integrity of the health delivery system as a whole.
It is instructive to recall that health professionals in England had gone on strike after negotiations with their government had failed, in the same timeframe as the strike in Lahore. Without resort to repression or violence the government accepted the demands and the whole matter were settled in a week’s time. But perhaps this is the way elected governments behave with those who have elected them when there is no colonial mindset at work. Pakistan is not the only country in the world to have a health delivery system or the concomitant problems. But no country in the world treats its skilled and hard working manpower the way it is treated in Pakistan.
This is because in Pakistan the political element in a government is often inept and ignorant, so the bureaucracy, with its colonial mindset, leads them by the nose. For the common man, it is difficult to understand why a government that could afford to distribute Rs13 billion’s worth of laptops free among potential voters as a quid pro quo, found it impossible to give a career structure to health professionals which, by its own statement, would have entailed an expenditure of Rs3-4 billion only.
Instead, it chose the path of confrontation, which resulted in a strike, the arrest and incarceration of doctors, misery and suffering for the public and general loss of goodwill and image at home and abroad. This brings us to the most important question: why is it necessary to have a career structure for doctors? The answer is simple: because they do not have one. With no written criteria for recruitment, terms of service, emolument and promotion, the whole health delivery system becomes the private feudal fief of the ruling political elite and the bureaucracy.
This style of governance has destroyed so many of our national institutions within the last or so decade.
Governments which are not responsive to public needs and institutional imperatives seldom, if ever, see reason unless they are confronted with the might of the public opinion. To confuse the issue with moral and ethical red herrings does no service to the masses.
True nobility of a profession lies in its service to humanity by creating institutions free from corruption, maladministration and wastage of public resources and not the observation of some philistine and notional ethical principles.
DR RASHEED HASAN KHAN ,
Lahore, August 8.