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Baton-wielding cops send nurses back to hospital

* Police put at least 10 protesting nurses behind bars, torture pregnant nurse whose condition later deteriorated * Nurses across province suspend work following torture of colleagues
AFP

LAHORE: The Punjab Police baton-charged protesting ad hoc nurses who were demanding their regularisation outside the Punjab Assembly on Friday, injuring several of them, including a pregnant nurse, whose condition deteriorated following the torture.
The police also arrested at least 10 ad hoc nurses and locked them up at the Racecourse women police station without registering any FIR against them. 
The torture comes as the nurses continued their sit-in on the road for the fifth consecutive day against the government and the Health Department officials. 
Following the violent attack by the police, nurses of Mayo Hospital, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Jinnah Hospital, General Hospital, Services Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Punjab Institute of Cardiology and those working at different private hospitals suspended services at all hospitals, including the emergency wards.
The nurses at Allied Hospital and Civil Hospital of Faisalabad, Multan Hospitals and other government and private hospitals across the province also stopped working to show solidarity with their colleagues who had been brutally tortured in Lahore.
The protesting nurses again gathered on The Mall after the ‘police attack’ and staged a sit-in in front of the Punjab Assembly, shouting slogans against the city police’s brutal behaviour and the government.
A number of nurses from hospitals across the city also reached The Mall to join their colleagues in condemning the police torture.
Earlier, the ad hoc nurses staged a sit-in on Copper Road. When they marched towards the Punjab Assembly to register their protest, police along with lady constables attacked them in a bid to disperse the protesters. Several nurses were wounded while trying to resist the police attack. One of them – who was pregnant – was critically injured in the clash and was rushed to Ganga Ram Hospital. According to doctors at the hospital, the condition of the pregnant nurse was stable until the filing of this report on Friday night.
The news of the attack on nurses spread in the city as well as across the province, and the nursing staff of several public and private hospitals suspended their activities in protest, and came out in solidarity with the affected nurses. This created serious problems for the patients, especially those under treatment at public hospitals of the city. The nurses of Multan Civil and Cardiology hospitals also suspended their activities to show solidarity with the affected nurses.
The young doctors and nurses in Khushab also shut down the outpatient departments (OPDs) of hospitals to register their protest, while the Balochistan Nursing Federation announced a province-wide strike from today (Saturday).
After the violent attacks on nurses, Adviser to the CM on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique, Health DG Dr Zahid Pervaiz and Health Sectary Babar Hayat addressed an emergency press conference at the Health DG office on Cooper Road. They said the government had resolved many issues of the ad hoc nurses; however, as per rules, the nurses would have to go through the Punjab Public Service Commission exams for regularisation.
Meanwhile, members of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), MQM and the Young Doctors’ Association (YDA), along with lawyers, also joined the protesting nurses in front of Punjab Assembly. 
The YDA called a general council meeting to discuss the violent attack on nurses. The association also strongly condemned the violent attacks on nurses.
Meanwhile, Shahbaz Sharif left a message on the social media, condemning the incident.
“I strongly condemn what happened today outside Punjab Assembly,” he said, adding that he was looking into the matter personally and had taken notice of the incident. “The matter will be inquired immediately and whosoever found guilty will be dealt strictly as per law with zero tolerance”. He said that the nurses’ issues would be addressed amicably.
On the other hand, PTI President Punjab Ejaz Chaudhry, PTI Punjab General Secretary Dr Yasmin Rashid and PTI Punjab Information Secretary Andleeb Abbas participated in the sit-in of nurses. Speaking on the occasion, Ejaz Chaudhry said that it was a shameful day in the history of human rights in Punjab, where innocent young nurses were beaten badly by policemen and they had to be taken to the hospital for emergency treatment.
He said that for the past eight days, these nurse had been sitting on the streets, asking for their genuine rights of being made permanent instead of being on contract. He said that the Punjab government had become deaf to the pleas of the daughters of this land and had been making excuses about some laws that had to be changed. 
He said how they were not violating the law by having these nurses for seven years. This was a violation of the law itself, he said. He demanded that the government should immediately start negotiations with the nurses and apologies for the violence against them, and punish the policemen responsible for it. Dr Yasmin Rashid said that during the six years of the Punjab government, Shahbaz Sharif and Rana Sanaullah had given ‘special treatment’ to the health sector. She said that first it was the young doctors than the lady health workers, now the nurses who were being treated as criminals instead. 
She said that in Punjab, there was an 80 percent deficiency of nurses, and it was shocking to see how the government was refusing to make these nurses permanent. 
She demanded that the Punjab Assembly should pass a bill on changing the law that would accommodate these nurses and give them permanent jobs.

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