KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday directed the chief secretary to examine as to why the training programme for gynaecologists and nursing staff for the treatment of fistula patients has not been approved yet and to ensure its immediate approval in larger public interest.
The directives were issued while hearing a petition calling for the utilisation of funds for a national programme to control maternal deaths. The petitioners, including Dr Shershah Syed, submitted that around 5,000 women die during pregnancy every year in Sindh because of a lack of health care facilities in the rural areas.
They said that there is a shortage of medical care facilities as well as trained staff to attend to expecting mothers and handle deliveries. According to the petitioners, the government had launched the Maternal & Newborn Child Health Programme many years ago, but the funds allocated for the programme were never utilised. More than 1,500 fistula patients hail from the province, where a majority of government hospitals do not provide fistula repair surgeries, they said.
They requested that the provincial government be held accountable for the lack of timely and adequate treatment as well as for the violation of women’s rights to life and dignity in accordance with the country’s Constitution.
The petitioners requested that the authorities be directed to ensure access to affordable treatment of obstetric fistula to all women in Sindh. They said the government should ensure that at least one qualified gynaecologist in every district is trained and equipped to provide fistula repair surgery.
Dr Syed Khalid Bukhari, a provincial programme director for the Maternal, Neonatal & Child Health Programme, submitted that the PC-I for training gynaecologists and nursing staff with regard to treatment of fistula patients has been moved to the finance department, which is yet to make its decision.
Dr Ashique Hussain, another officer of the health department, requested time to submit a progress report for the entire province as to whether the facilities for the treatment of fistula are being provided to patients at all government hospitals.
An SHC division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar directed the provincial law officer to file comments, including details of the hospitals in the province where fistula patients are being provided treatment, and adjourned the hearing until September 18.
The court also directed the chief secretary to examine as to why the PC-I has not been approved for the purpose of training medical staff to provide fistula treatment at government hospitals and to ensure that the programme be approved in larger public interest.