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Patients suffer as G-B paramedics’ strike enters third day
GILGIT: For the third consecutive day, thousands of patients in Gilgit-Baltistan seeking medical consultation had to return home without getting any treatment as paramedical staffers seeking revised service structure and a risk allowance continued their strike, boycotting out-patient departments (OPDs) in all government-run hospitals.
Patients visiting the government hospitals are forced to visit private medical facilities due to the strike, which the protesting paramedics said would end only if the government issues a notification in this regard.
Pakistan Paramedical Association’s Gilgit-Baltistan chapter president, Aneet Hussain, spoke to Hum News English about the ongoing strike. He confirmed that OPDs in major government hospitals and medical facilities across the region remain closed. The association’s primary demands include a revised service structure and a risk allowance that aligns with the allowances given to paramedics in other provinces.
“Our demands are akin to a matter of life and death for us,” said Hussain, expressing the critical nature of their needs. He further stressed the importance of paramedical staff within the health delivery system, highlighting their role as the backbone of healthcare services.
Despite this, he pointed out, they have continually faced systemic exploitation and have been deprived of fundamental rights such as promotions and fair compensation.
Hussain mentioned that back in 2011, the government of Gilgit-Baltistan had approved an 8-grade service structure. “However, this structure was fundamentally insufficient, as it provided opportunities for promotion to only 20% of the staff. Despite its inadequacies, the implementation of this service structure itself took two years,” he added.
Hussain highlighted that in 2018, a demand was made to revise the current service structure. However, he said, it took five years for the file to reach the GB cabinet. In September this year, the GB cabinet approved the revised service structure, but this approval was made conditional on the sanction of the Federal Finance Division in Islamabad.
“This condition appears to conflict with the Gilgit-Baltistan Finance Act 2023, specifically Clause 24, which states that the authority for upgradation lies with the Gilgit-Baltistan cabinet,” the PPMA president said. Additionally, he said, several positions on higher scales remain unfulfilled or delayed in bureaucratic processes.
The Young Doctors Association of Gilgit-Baltistan has expressed its support for the demands of the Paramedical Staff Association. In a statement, they acknowledged the legitimacy and appropriateness of the paramedical staff’s demands, emphasizing their dedication and hard work in hospitals where they serve patients tirelessly.
The association decried the inexplicable delay in implementing the revised service structure and promotions, despite cabinet approval, and called upon higher authorities to fulfil the long-overdue rights of the paramedical staff.