Tuesday saw the streets of Lahore choked with traffic jams as the Young Doctor’s Association (YDA) took to the streets to protest the dismissal of two of their own, Shehryar Niazi and Mazhar Rafeeq, from Mayo Hospital. The protest demanded the two doctors be reinstated and Dr Faisal Masood, the VC of King Edward Medical College (KEMU), as well as the Secretary of Health, Dr Najam Shah, be dismissed for daring to fire the offending doctors.

Dr Niazi and Dr Rafeeq were dismissed when they came to blows with an attendant of a patient who was upset with the level of service provided at Mayo Hospital about ten days ago. This is not the first time Dr Niazi has been in trouble, he was earlier dismissed from Lady Wellington Hospital in Lahore over similar allegations of misconduct. And neither is it a first that a YDA protest with flimsy demands has caused inconvenience to patients and the general public.

The narrative of their own victimhood has turned the YDA into bullies over time. What could have been an important labour rights group for young doctors has turned into a mob, ready to leave their posts and take to the streets. The issue of doctors not being paid enough, or not having enough means to provide good healthcare were ones that the general public was sympathetic to, but the YDA has taken unfair advantage of any sympathy and room that is given to them to protest. The protest on Tuesday was unwarranted, and was more about the ego of the staff dismissed than about better rights for doctors or patients. The YDA, through such pressure tactics and the threat of use of force has not earned a good name for itself and cases of them causing needless disruption keep cropping up. On October 30, two rival groups of the YDA came to blows in front of the emergency ward. Jinnah Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Lady Aitchison Hospital and Lady Wellington Hospital also observed strikes in their Out Patient Departments (OPDs) in solidarity with aggrieved colleagues of Mayo Hospital led by Dr Shehryar Niazi.

Mayo Hospital is one of the few hospitals that provide facilities that other hospitals in the district do not, including a Burn Unit. Patients often come from outside Lahore, and when mistreated by hospital staff, have no other alternative for health care. The mistreatment of a patient or his attendants is inexcusable, and no doctor is above the law or the rules of the institution he or she is working in. There is a lack of standard operating procedures in government hospitals as well a lack of attention to ethics in our medical education. The VC of KEMU and the Secretary of Health would do well to take note of these gaps.