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December 30, 2007

Drug stores closure causes difficulties for patients

Opinion

December 30, 2007

LAHORE

FOLLOWING assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the volatile situation has crippled life resulting in unavailability of medicines due to closure of drugstores coupled with thin attendance of medical staff in hospitals, which added to the miseries of the patients not only at homes but at all private and public sector hospitals in the city and the province as well.

The miseries of the people along with their patients, suffering from different diseases, were aggravated as several medical professionals including professors, doctors, surgeons and paramedical and nursing staff in all public sector hospitals were absent from their duties on the pretext of perilous situation and unavailability of fuel for their vehicles or transport. The government has also announced a three-day official holidays from December 28 to 30.

Most of them had already been away from their duties due to holidays on account of Eid-ul-Azha and Quaid-e-AzamÕs birth anniversary and Christmas.

Besides, all the medical stores except a few, in Lahore and other districts of the province remained closed for the third consecutive day after Benazir BhuttoÕs assassination on Thursday last, which caused unavailability of life-saving and other emergency drugs for emergency patients and other medicines and medical supplies for the patients in hospitals. Moreover, the patients at their homes also had to face a lot of hardships due to unavailability of medicines from the markets. Taking advantage of closure of drugstores in the market, the owners of private pharmacies within hospitals started overcharging the poor and worried patients.

Similarly, several accident and emergency patients in Lahore and other districts were also amongst the victims of the critical situation. After having received bruises and burn injuries in clashes, the accident and emergency patients then had to face a number of problems in getting immediate transportation to reach nearby hospitals in the

absence of ambulances due to unavailability of fuel anywhere in the province.

The officials in different hospitals of Lahore said that hospital administrations were also reluctant to ply ambulances on roads not only due to lack of fuel but also fears of attacks from the charged people in the city. Reportedly, the charged political workers of PPP attacked and damaged an ambulance of Rescue 1122 Emergency Service near Sadar Bazaar in Lahore Cantt area.

The patients are going through untold miseries and traumatic conditions due to lack of proper attention and unavailability of medicines in hospitals including Mayo Hospital, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Services Hospital, Jinnah Hospital, Lahore General Hospital, Punjab Institute of Cardiology, ChildrenÕs Hospital, Lady Wellington Hospital, Lady Aitcheson Hospital, other autonomous and public sector hospitals in the province. The situation is not different in federally-controlled Sheikh Zayed Hospital as well as the district-run hospitals like Gulabdevi Hospital, Mian Munshi Hospital. The poor patients also faced difficulties in getting free medicines and endured embarrassment at the hands of staff in hospitals.

Sources in the city hospitals told The News that the administrations of the hospitals had only been conducting operations of serious nature while routine operations had been postponed till normalisation of situation in the country.

An attendant of a badly injured person at Neurosurgery Ward in Lahore General Hospital said that it had become extremely difficult to get treatment for the patients as neither proper attention was being given nor necessary drugs were available within the hospital or in the markets.

The expecting females and their attendants also suffered a lot of hardships in Lady Willington Hospital, Lady Aitcheson Hospital, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Shaikh Zayed Hospital and other hospitals in the city due to unavailability of doctors and other medical staff as well as medicines. They had no choice but to cope with the situation at the mercy of staff of these hospitals.

An elderly attendant of her pregnant daughter at Lady Willington Hospital said that neither there were any proper arrangements for provision of healthcare services for delivery cases nor any facilities for the attendants in the hospitals. ÒWe are at the mercy of hospital staff,Ó she said, adding that it had become all the more difficult to shift her pregnant daughter to another hospital as no public transport including rickshaws and taxis were available on roads. ÒThe hospital staff has plainly refused to provide ambulance to transport their patient to another hospital,Ó she complained.

Another attendant of his pregnant wife in Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said that he was extremely worried for arranging a whole list of medicines and medical supplies for a caesarian operation upon his wife, as neither those medicines/medical supplies were provided from the hospital store nor there was any private pharmacy within the hospital. Besides, he said that all the medical stores in the markets all across Lahore were closed.

The attendant of a patient, requiring immediate operation, at Jinnah Hospital said that the hospital staff was deliberately delaying the operation on the pretext of absence of senior doctors and unavailability of drugs despite the visibly deteriorating condition of the patient. ÒThe duty doctors have adopted extremely rude and rough attitude towards us instead of conducting the operation upon my father that is urgentÓ he complained. Similarly, many patients and their attendants in Mayo Hospital, Services Hospital, Punjab Institute of Cardiology, ChildrenÕs Hospital and Sheikh Zayed Hospital complained of lack of proper attention due to shortage of doctors and other medical staff as well as unavailability of necessary drugs within or outside the hospital. They also complained that duty doctors and other staff in hospitals had adopted extremely rude and rough attitude towards them.

When contacted, the medical superintendents of public sector hospitals in the city claimed that they were providing treatment to the patients as usual by ensuring presence of all doctors and medical staff as well as provision of necessary drugs, adding that countryÕs volatile situation did not affect the provision of treatment services to the patients. Sir Ganga Ram Hospital MS Dr Ijaz Ahmad Sheikh, Services Hospital MS Dr Ijaz Ahmad Bhatti, Lahore General Hospital MS Dr Umer Farooq, Lady Willington Hospital MS Dr Iqbal Hasan Kazmi said that they had ensured presence of each and every staff member either on their own vehicles or picking them up on ambulances from their homes despite officially announced holidays from December 28 to 30. They said that they were also providing all emergency and other necessary drugs to the emergency and indoor patients from the available stocks in the hospitals. In addition, they claimed that all medicines were available at controlled prices at private pharmacies in hospitals. Besides, they said that they had also stored sufficient blood of all groups to provide immediate transfusion to the patients in emergency. ‘All ambulances with their tanks full are also available for transportation of patients to the hospitals,’ they added. A spokesman for Punjab Emergency Service, Rescue 1122, said that they were continuing their ambulances service in Lahore and other districts of the province without any interruption or delay as they had stored sufficient fuel/diesel in back, while RescueÕs attached/contracted petrol pumps also didnÕt refuse to fill diesel in ambulances or fire-extinguishing vehicles. However, he said that, although there were a few attacks on Rescue 1122 ambulances by the angry mobs, the ambulances and fire-extinguishing vehicles were providing timely services to the injured or burn patients.

However, he said that there were not many incidents of injuries or burns in Lahore as compared to in some other districts of the province despite rage and fury amongst the people over a very sad incident of killing of Benazir Bhutto.

Pakistan Chemists and Retailers Association Chairman Ishaq Mayo said that they were persuading the drugstores owners in the province to open their stores to ensure provision of emergency and other medicines to the patients. Initially, he said, the PCRA would convince them to, at least, provide emergency medicines to the patients outside hospitals, adding that the situation would gradually normalised and drugstores would start opening with the passage of time.

ÒAlthough Benazir BhuttoÕs killing was a national tragedy, one has to recover and move on,Ó he said, adding that PCRA would try its level best to get all the medicine shops opened in Lahore and across the province.

Talking to The News, Punjab Caretaker Health Minister Aslam Humayun said that Health Department had issued strict directions to all EDOs Health and Principals/Medical Superintendents of hospitals in the province to remain on high alert and provide treatment services to the patients by ensuring presence of doctors and other staff as well as provision of medicines in the hospitals. He said that hospital administrations had called all doctors and surgeons on duties in mega teachings hospitals as well as DHQ/THQ hospitals in the province, with a view to extending uninterrupted treatment to patients round the clock.

He said that he was conducting surprise visits of different teachings hospitals in Lahore to check absenteeism and non-provision of treatment and medicines to the patients. ÒWe will ensure that none of the patients is refused treatment or medicines in hospitals,Ó he observed. He said that, in addition to provision of medicines from stores of the hospitals, they would also ensure supply of medicines from private pharmacies within hospitals at controlled prices.

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