Attempt to end PIMS employees’ strike fails

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Islamabad : The Executive Director (ED) of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) made a failed attempt Saturday to maneuver an end to the employees’ ongoing strike against the Medical Teaching Institutions (MTI) Ordinance by seeking intervention of the hospital’s heads of departments.

The Heads of Departments (HoDs) not only sided with the protesters in rejecting the MTI Ordinance through a resolution, but also communicated to the ED, the combined resolve of all employees of PIMS to continue the strike and hunger camp till withdrawal of the said legislation.

The leadership of the Federal Grand Health Alliance (FGHA) also made it clear that while they are willing to negotiate with the relevant authorities, under no circumstances will they engage with members of the recently appointed Board of Governors (BOG), which will manage the affairs of PIMS once it becomes subservient to the MTI legislation.

The protesters accused the ED of supporting the MTI Ordinance for his own vested interests. “The ED, who is retiring in three weeks, is actually aspiring to become the Principal of the School of Dentistry for three years with the support of the BoG,” they alleged. They also criticized the ED for portraying a false ‘All is well at PIMS’ impression to the government.

The Chairman of FGHA Dr. Asfandyar Khan announced a grand protest on Monday with the participation of employees from 22 government organizations now seeing eye-to-eye with their stance. Day 13 of the protest also witnessed employees marching towards the MCH Centre, chanting slogans against MTI and the BoG and participating in the hunger strike camp. Dr. Hyder Abbasi saw no logic behind such experimentation amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and urged the government to withdraw the legislation.

Criticising specific aspects of the ‘half-cooked and flawed MTI Ordinance,’ one of the protesters complained that “Provincial government employees are already on the strength of the provincial ministry; they are not civil servants and can be posted to hospitals on deputation. We, on the contrary, are civil servants and employees of PIMS. Our transfer to the ministry’s pool and reverse posting to PIMS on deputation if we opt to remain civil servants, is grossly irregular.”

Talking to this scribe while requesting anonymity, the head of a department at PIMS said, “The MTI Ordinance for PIMS has violated the constitutional jurisdiction of SZBMU by encroaching upon its constituent institutions i.e., the Federal Medical and Dental College, and the School of Dentistry. This has rendered SZBMU toothless and the university has been rendered as a fragile epitome of medical education.”

Another senior professor said, “The MTI Act of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been revised in November 2020 due to major inherent flaws in practical application of the Act. The lessons learnt by the PTI government over the years in KP have not been reflected in the MTI Ordinance promulgated for PIMS at the Centre, the same month. Those hardships will take years to mend at the center again.”

Another protester termed the MTI Ordinance as representing a constitutional divide between employees of the Provincial Health Departments and those of the federal government. “Provincial government employees are recruited by the Health Department itself and then posted to different healthcare delivery structures including teaching hospitals. These employees are not civil servants. Their terms of postings and transfers, as well as deputations, differ entirely from those of federal government employees,” he pointed out. The federal government’s attached departments of various Ministries and Divisions recruit their employees on their own—directly for non-gazetted and through FPSC for gazetted staff. These employees are accorded the status of civil servants and enjoy the perks and privileges of this employment through salary and allowances drawn on AGPR through their vendor accounts,” be explained.

Serving under BoG, a senior professor remarked, is akin to being deprived of all perks and privileges enjoyed by civil servants, then being transferred to the pool of the Ministry of NHSR&C, and then being posted back to PIMS on deputation. “This is a thoughtless process which ironically even lacks support of the Management Services Wing of the Establishment Division,” he stated. One of the major privileges of a civil servant is grant of official accommodation, which PIMS employees will lose once they become employees of an autonomous organisation. Official residential plots will also not be allotted to them.

The loopholes of the legislation notwithstanding, there are zero chances of the government showing any amount of flexibility or revisiting the Ordinance. The problem is that the protesters are just as adamant as the Ministry. The countdown for a collision has begun.

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