It is always a tragedy when a child dies. It is a still greater tragedy when this happens as a result of neglect or incompetence. The case of Nashwa, the nine-month-old baby who died at a private hospital in Karachi allegedly after being administered an injection too potent for her by a staff nurse is a reminder of this. Nashwa and her twin sister had been brought into the hospital suffering from diarrhoea. They should have been cured and sent back home healthy to live full lives. Instead, Nashwa suffered days in misery after being paralysed and brain damaged because of the care (lack of) she received. Such lethal attention at a healthcare facility is unacceptable. There have been far too many other deaths also due to the same factors. Currently, at least four staff members from the hospital are under arrest. Three committees including those set up by the Sindh chief minister and by the Sindh Health Commission are looking into what happened. We hope they reach a conclusion and anyone guilty of malpractice or neglect is penalized under the relevant law.
Such punishment will of course not bring Nashwa back. Her family will live forever with the pain left by her avoidable death. But perhaps it can stop other cases of neglect at hospitals around the country. We see reports complaining about such neglect every other week. We have had protests by relatives agitating for the rights of patients to be protected. It is time something was done about these cases. The case of Nashwa needs to be examined and the treatment administered to her assessed. But beyond this we need to look at the broader problem of the hiring of staff, notably at private hospitals – and the question of accountability for doctors, nurses, paramedics and others. The attitude adopted by the hospital staff after her death is also a cause for concern. The lack of remorse, sympathy or even professionalism is appalling. In some cases, persons brought in to emergency departments in critical condition have died because they are not immediately able to deposit the full fees required of them. Such inhumanity has to end. We hope that from the death of Nashwa, some action will be taken to prevent further mismanagement and incompetence at hospitals so that other lives can be saved.