Islamabad - The proverb ‘when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers’ entirely reflects the condition of the patients when they are compelled to suffer the unwanted impact of strikes in Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS).

The sun is showing no mercy and Asif Ali with pain in his knee is lying on the stretcher in the premises of the hospital under a shadowy tree, while his father-in-law Mohammad Azam, above sixty years old man, is kneading Asif’s legs to calm him down.

They travelled from Khushab a day before to PIMS , to consult an orthopaedic physician but were caught in the strike on Monday and Tuesday, which not only gave them physical stress but also financial trouble.

“Thank God the strike did not prolong and we get access to the doctor. Now my son-in-law is in much better condition than yesterday,” said the old man.

Doctors and paramedics staff of PIMS gave a call of strike on Monday and refused to examine the patients in Outdoor Patients Department (OPD) and other departments until their demands were met by the government and Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University (SZABMU) administration.

These employees of PIMS were demanding the restoration of the status of the hospital in which it will be separated from the medical university.  The hospital and the university were merged in the tenure of previous government, while the employees have been protesting against this decision since 2014.

The hospital has suffered a number of strikes during the last few years on different issues, from service structure of the employees to demand of doctors’ security. Every time the poor patients paid the price of this tug of war among hospital employees.

According to data maintained by the hospital, around 250 doctors and 300 paramedics are employed in the hospital in which nurses, postgraduate residents, house officers and ancillary staff are not included.

While, during the latest strike, more than six thousand patients were turned back without their medical examination in OPDs; however the emergency of the hospital was operational during the strike.

Thirteen years old Omer was seen in misery, outside the gate number 1, main entrance to OPD. On August 23 severe pain emerged in his stomach and her mother took him to PIMS from nearby area. But when they reached the main gate, they saw police contingents and group of doctors sloganeering.

According to Omer’s mother, who wished not to be named, “We got afraid and turned back on our feet and visited a private clinic.”

According to her, she again took her son to PIMS after the end of the strike because she was not satisfied with the medicine given to his son.

The university administration while expressing grievance on the situation faced by the patients due to strike had said that it was not expected that protest would affect the provision of  medical services to the patients .

According to the statement given in media by the Vice Chancellor of the university Dr Javed Akram, a mob of union representatives locked the OPDs unfortunately.

Another person Mohammad Ahsan from a village of Kharian, while talking to The Nation said that he brought her ailing sister from Lahore to PIMS with the hope to conduct her neurological examination but he faced very bad situation on Tuesday morning.

“It was not easy for me to bring my sister to Islamabad from Lahore. But it was very disturbing for me when I saw that no one is going to check her because of strike,” he said.

He stated that affording medical treatment in Pakistan for a middle class man is not easy. They have spent nearly Rs 50,000 on treatment in a private hospital of Lahore, while the same treatment in PIMS only costs Rs 15,000.

“We had to return back to Kharian on the day of strike because it was not possible to stay anywhere here with the patient,” said Ahsan.

There were many patients with stories lying in the lawns of the hospital.

After the negotiations with the government, the protesting employees called off the strike. State Minister for CADD Tariq Fazal Chaudhry has assured the employees that government would not go against the interests of the hospital and the university.

Meanwhile, the employees had given the deadline of August 26 to table a bill in the parliament to separate the hospital from the university; otherwise they will again launch their protest.

– The writer is a freelance contributor.