Hundreds of health workers organised a demonstration at Sir Ganga Ram hospital Lahore and later rallied on a nearby main road to protest against the planned privatisation of public sector hospitals in Punjab. A large number of female health workers participated in the demonstration and rally. Health workers from different hospitals also attended the protest demonstration. The protestors chanted slogans against the privatisation policy of the Punjab government and announced an indefinite strike if the government tried to impose privatisation unilaterally and forcefully.
Two SMP members who are part of the leadership of the Punjab Paramedical Alliance made it clear in their speeches that the Punjab government wants to hand over public sector hospitals to the private, elite hospitals, which will made it impossible for the poor masses to get medical treatment and health services from these hospitals. They said that the government is trying to deceive the people and give the impression that only the management of the public sector hospitals will be handed over to the elite private hospitals in order to improve services and increase efficiency. They said the whole experience of privatisation in the country clearly shows that after privatisation, services become so expensive that the poor masses cannot afford them.
The speakers made it clear that they will not accept privatisation and will put up stiff resistance against it. SMP members distributed leaflets against the privatisation of the public sector hospitals, which were received very well by the protestors. The message of unity, solidarity and united struggle got a very positive response.
It is important to mention that there are three different organisations represent health workers in hospitals. All three are running separate campaigns against the privatisation and other issues but have so far refused to form alliance to wage a united struggle along with doctors and female nurses, who have their own separate organisations. Our members are trying their best to convince the leadership to form an alliance for a united struggle and campaign. There is anger among health workers against the privatisation and the potential for a broader and bigger struggle exists in the hospitals. SMP and PWF is preparing the strategy to intervene and build the movement from the below.
The leaders of the Punjab Paramedical Alliance also demanded that the government should immediately regularise the services of all the daily wages, contract and ad hoc health workers and supporting staff in all the hospitals. The government should impose a ban on contract employment in the public sector and only employ workers on a permanent basis. They also demanded the upgrade of workers working in different categories.