Members of the Young Doctors Association (YDA) protested in Lahore on Tuesday, and have been plagued in the past with negative press. An effort must be made to sympathise with the plight of the common working doctor, for it is a hard job that these doctors do, and rewards are minimal.

One of the major issues of the YDA is how they are treated. They work long hours, and shifts at Services Hospital can be of 30 hours for a young doctor doing their housejob, often with no pay. Najam Ahmad Shah is the Secretary of Specialised Health care and Medical Education, and the ship he is running is inept and almost cruel to the doctors. The members of YDA feel that a diplomat and an engineer by profession is not capable of understanding the field of medicine, and cannot address or understand their issues. This is why all their demands have been directed to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. The doctors need not only better pay, but just mere compensation for the hours they are working, as they are promised. They need better security, so that they are not attacked by angry patients, a regular work hazard. And basically they need to be heard by their seniors and by the bureaucracy, rather than be threatened like criminals and sprayed with water cannons.

The doctors demand the release of their fellow doctors, who have been arrested for only protesting peacefully. Burn units are required throughout the region for proper functioning of the health care system. The absence of burn units prevents doctors from facilitating patients; precisely what happened in Bahawalpur recently. Intensive Care Units (ICUs) should also be constructed, so that proper care can be provided. Security of the doctors is also a major concern. Doctors and paramedics both are mistreated, and are also forced to act as ushers to please the ruling elite. They do not have health insurance, when nurses and paramedics already do. Other demands include a one-patient-per-bed policy. Free medication is also something that needs to be worked upon.

One news channel asked on Tuesday: What is the fault of the patients? None, but when the doctors treating a patient are exhausted, and their wages ensure that they cannot make ends meet economically, what is expected? News of patients dying from protests is often exaggerated; these doctors have kept emergencies open during their protest. There is no real incentive for these men and women to serve their people, other than sheer altruism. When Health Minister Khawaja Salman Rafique terms these demands along with the protests as propaganda; it is unfair to the cause. These people are by no means pursuing their personal interests if one pays attention to their actual demands.