Lahore: A typical stench that speaks of unhygienic conditions, crowded halls without proper air-conditioning, shortage of beds for patients and bad mood of nurses and doctors are the features, one can see in emergency wards of all public hospitals in Lahore.
News Lens Pakistan conducted a survey of the outdoor and emergency wards of several hospitals.
The Out Patient Department at General Hospital presents the picture of a fish market. The entire hospital is operating with only 95 male doctors against the required strength is 123. There are only 54 female doctors against the requirement of 70.
According to Junaid Mirza, Medical Superintendent, General Hospital Lahore, the doctor-patient ratio in the General Hospital is not conducive to serve patients in a responsible manner. Each doctor sees approximately 70 patients every day. In developed countries, one doctor sees only ten patients.
Not that doctors are not available says, Ajmal Bukhari, Superintendent Officer at General Hospital, the issue is, laments Bukhari, doctors are chosen for posting on personal likes and dislikes. On the top of it, the process of hiring doctors has been made complicated, he added.
“The health sector has been divided into two groups; the Primary and Secondary Health Care Department and the Specialized Medical and Education Department. We have two secretaries for health sector. Because of this division, the process of hiring and transfer has become cumbersome. We have many doctors on waiting list but because of procedural hurdles, the response time has lengthened. There is also need to eliminate the culture of nepotism,” says Bukhari.
He said that whenever an advertisement is given for any appointment or procurement, the administration starts getting calls either from the Chief Minister’s office or the speaker Punjab Assembly or the local MNA and MPA. “They press us to give job or tender to their candidates or organizations,”
Kausar Mustafa was standing outside the X-Ray room for the last three hours. She had come there before as well. It was her second visit. Having paid the money for the X-Ray, and given the token, her turn never comes.
There are two X-Ray machines in Generals Hospital to cater to at times more than 200 patients, says Bukhari.
“Usually, those with ‘perchi’ (reference) are given preference over other patients. We are treated like dogs because we do not have any source,” says Kausar with teary eyes.
There is a fee for everything. The myth of free medicines given in the government hospital was unlocked when a large crowd of patients told News Lens Pakistan that drugs below Rs 100 were easily available in the hospital. Any medicine prescribed above that price is bought from outside.
When News Lens Pakistan asked the patients as to why they keep on electing the same politicians when they are not proving right choice, a woman called Mrs. Qazafi said, “Our votes have no value when ballot boxes are changed.”
Every day approximately 5,000 patients visit General Hospital. An equal number of visitors or family members accompany these patients.
There are only two bathrooms in the entire hospital to cater to this enormous crowd.
At peak hours around 12 noon, the odor from the already filthy washrooms adds to the miseries of the patients.
Mirza told News Lens Pakistan that previously most of the machines in the hospital were out of order. However, the situation has improved a lot but 100 percent improvement should not be expected, said Mirza.
Jinnah hospital was another place that News Lens Pakistan visited to make a comparison. Since this hospital has been declared as the model hospital, therefore the situation was somewhat better and manageable.
However, on close inspection, Irshad Kharal, an attendant of Shahzad Ali, who later died, told News Lens Pakistan that there was only one suction machine in the surgical emergency.
“The nurses had asked me to learn inserting tube because the staff did not have time. It was a tedious job. Many times the staff would simply take away the machine to use on another patient,” said Kharal.
He said similarly, there is only one ECG machine in both the medical and surgical emergency.
Talking about the general attitude, he said that doctors and nurses would become rude and insulting if the attendants of the patient dared ask the same question twice.
News Lens Pakistan observed the same at General Hospital where the lower staff was jabbing at women and confronting them with abuses for their insistent demand to see the doctor on their turn.
When contacted Khawaja Salman Rafique, Advisor to Chief Minister Punjab on Health, he told News Lens Pakistan that there was no shortage of doctors in hospitals. He said that the government was planning to introduce cardiac facilities in every hospital so that the load on Punjab Institute of Cardiology was reduced.
Talking about medicines, Rafique said that more than 400 companies were supplying drugs to the government hospitals. “We have introduced a whole mechanism to monitor and audit the supplied drugs to improve quality and availability.”
However, Rafique acknowledged that most of the funds were lost in unnecessary activities and that corruption was still an intractable monster in the public hospitals. He also agreed that the attitude of the doctors and general staff was not professional.
When asked about the health budget, Rafique said 62 percent increase in health budget was a big achievement of the government of Punjab.
In the financial year, 2016-17 Rupees 43.8 billion has been allocated to the health sector.