Privitisation of healthcare in Punjab: Workers organised and braced for retaliation.

In May 2019, all affiliated organisations of Punjab health workers formed a Grand Health Alliance (GHA) and conducted its first general meeting. The organisations in the alliance include Punjab Young Doctors Association, Grade 4 Para Medical Association, Health Professional Alliance, Young Nurses Association, Health Support Staff Association and many more.

The alliance was in response to government’s MTI Act that is related to organisational change in hospitals and healthcare centres in the whole country. According to the law, hospitals and healthcare centres all across Pakistan are handed over to private profiteering individuals who will control them through a board. Hospitals are made into profit-making entities rather than public service organisations. Private contractors and companies are allowed to leach into the healthcare system through different mini and micro and mega contracts within hospitals. All hospital employees are to be transferred from the status of public sector employee to the hospital company employee status, losing the status of their permanent job and getting a short fixed-term contract subject to renewal at the whim of the bosses. The MTI Act is already implemented in KPK province in Pakistan, and there is a huge movement of doctors already underway. There is a massive resistance against this MTI Act and all over the country. Fearing the resistance, senior government healthcare officials in cohort with private companies are using all tactics to create divisions within the healthcare workers.

The main slogan in the first meeting of the GHA was an overall blanket rejection of the MTI Act. Furthermore, all participants unanimously decided to reject the privatisation of the healthcare system. Two days after the general meeting, the local bodies of GHA in all hospitals organise general workplace meetings and ratified the decisions of the central GHA leadership, which was primarily based on the rejection of MTI Act and against privatisation of hospitals. It is very important that the militant struggle of Young Doctors Association should be revived and a proactive collaboration should be a made with all workers in different organisations in the country including other public sector workers, school teachers and professors, administrative staff associations, railway workers, PIA workers, electricity workers and others. Furthermore, the struggle should be connected with international healthcare workers, as they are also facing immense challenges due to the healthcare privatisations going on around the world.