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April 21, 2019

Fatal negligence


April 21, 2019

The case in Karachi in which a father has lodged an FIR for attempted murder against the administration of a private hospital after his nine-month-old daughter was apparently paralysed after being administered an injection incorrectly, has focused attention on negligence at hospitals. The case of Nashwa, the small girl who is currently fighting for her life at a different hospital, is obviously an extremely tragic one. An FIR has been registered against hospital staff after initial police hesitation. But the scenario is not an unusual one. On Friday, the death of a 19-year-old woman was reported from a Korangi hospital, again after allegedly being administered a wrong injection. She had come in for a minor complaint. In February this year, a mother in Lahore put on social media a video filmed at a Lahore private hospital where she said her daughter had died, again as a result of criminal neglect. While the details of the case need to be investigated, what cannot be denied is the brutality of the manner in which such incidents are handled. There was no demonstration of sympathy or even simple courtesy on the part of hospital staff shown in the clip, including a senior administrator who brusquely told the mother to keep quiet. In 2018, a Supreme Court judge complained that his young daughter had been disabled for life as a result of negligent medical care offered by a leading Islamabad hospital.

Such cases come in regularly from around the country. Allegations that private hospitals are essentially focused on making money are not incorrect. The complaints of patients regarding demands for full fees before even emergency procedures are carried out are one example of this. Others come in with reports that hospitals have refused to release bodies till the payment of full dues. The hiring of under-trained and under-qualified staff also needs inquiry. Perhaps our problem is that we lack regulations and mechanisms to deal with the problem. The PMDC does not have sufficient teeth and the other approaches left to victims are not easy to pursue. More needs to be done to protect patients.

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