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January 3, 2018

Drug rehab centre sealed after 281 addicts found in nine-room building


January 3, 2018

LAHORE: Some 281 people were recovered in inhuman conditions crammed into a nine-room building during Punjab Healthcare Commission’s raid on a "drug rehabilitation centre" in Shadbagh.

Acting on a complaint, Punjab Healthcare Commission’s three-member team, led by Additional Director (Complaints) Dr. Shahid Mehmood, raided Amir Chishti Hospital, Shadbagh, near Kot Khawaja Saeed Hospital, and found 281 out of 365 persons, who were kept in illegal confinement on the pretext of treating them for drug addiction. “It was shocking to discover that a 30-bed hospital was treating around 365 patients with drug and substance abuse disorders,” commented one of the members of the inspection team.

With the help of Gujjarpura police and district administration, the PHC team immediately evacuated 281 drug addicts out of their dingy conditions and dispatched them to Punjab Institute of Mental Health and other hospitals for treatment and rehabilitation. The rest of the inmates were discharged by the hospital administration before the crackdown.

The PHC’s team came to the conclusion that 365 inmates had been crammed into nine rooms in inhuman conditions at the centre, living with a constant risk of scabies and other infectious diseases. Neither any psychiatrist nor a psychologist or medical, nursing or paramedical staff was available for the treatment of the patients. One of the inmates under treatment was performing duties as a guard with a rifle, which could have grave repercussions.

The center was being run under Khidmat-e-Adam Trust. It was witnessed that there was extreme suffocation and a stinking smell enough to collapse any outsider entering the building. The hospital not only lacked primary health facilities but also basic life necessities. The inmates were forced to eat substandard food in unhygienic conditions while hundreds of persons were using the toilets in the jail-cum-drug rehabilitation centre.

The premises lacked adequate medical equipment and there were no arrangements for infection control and patient safety. Records on patient registration, care and treatment were also not available.

The inmates also complained against the owner of the hospital for torturing them, besides meting out inhuman treatment. “We were neither given any medicines nor serious patients were ever shifted to hospital for specialized treatment,” said an inmate and alleged that a patient was strangulated to death to relieve him of his pain and disease. PHC Additional Director (Complaints) Dr. Shahid Mehmood filed an application with Gujjarpura police and sought legal action against the hospital’s owner and administration. Gujjarpura SHO Babar Awan told The News that the application had been sent to the Legal Branch to seek legal opinion for further action. “We have not made any arrest so far,” he added.

A senior official of PHC said investigations would reveal the purpose of keeping 365 persons under illegal detention and for how long the practice was going on. Meanwhile, Punjab Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Department has constituted a Special Medical Board with immediate effect to examine, evaluate and safe transfer of patients admitted to the centre.

King Edward Medical University Professor of Psychiatry Dr Aftab Asif is convener while four members include Punjab Institute of Mental Health, Lahore, chief psychiatrist consultant Dr Imran, Executive Director PIMH, representative of Punjab Healthcare Commission not below the rank of a director and any other relevant expert(s). The Special Medical Board will start working immediately.

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