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April 25, 2019

SHC moved against unlicensed healthcare institutions in Sindh


April 25, 2019

The Sindh High Court on Wednesday issued notices to the federal and provincial health departments, the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, the Sindh Health Care Commission and others on a petition seeking action against unlicensed healthcare establishments in the province.

Petitioners Jaffer Raza and Asad Iftikhar submitted in the petition that several patients, including nine-month-minor girl Nashwa had died due to alleged medical negligence on the part of private healthcare institutions.

They submitted that medical negligence at such a regular frequency only indicated that the issue was rampant in our society and could only be attributed to weak laws and even weaker implementation. They said that the apathy and callousness of medical practitioners and healthcare establishments had only contributed to the menace to the extent that there was hardly a citizen who had been not been directly or indirectly affected by medical negligence.

The petitioners added that there were countless instances of medical negligence whereby people had lost their lives due to improper treatment and those very medical practitioners continued risking the lives of many more as there was no proper system of checks and balances.

They said the Sindh Healthcare Commission Act was promulgated in 2013 which also provided for the promulgation of a commission with wide ranging powers, including powers for conducting inquiries into malpractices and failures in the provisions of healthcare services.

The petitioners said that despite the lapse of several years the commission was not working properly, and had the commission’s powers been put to use, the society would not have experienced the horrific incidents of medical malpractice which were happening at an ever-increasing rate.

They said the healthcare commission was also authorised to monitor and regulate the quality and standards of healthcare services and to issue regulations and guidelines for the provisions of healthcare in Sindh; however, the law seemed far-fetched and fictitious with no implementation.

According to the petitioners, omissions and lapses on the part of the commission by failing to use its discretionary powers has led to medical practitioners and health care establishments enjoying unprecedented impunity whose grave negligence goes unchecked and without any legal repercussions.

They submitted that medical practitioners used medical jargons and terminologies to misguide the public at large and used the same as a veil to hide their own incompetence and negligence as the common man was easily deceived and did not take it upon himself to investigate the matter.

Referring to the Nashwa inquiry report by the commission, they said that it was mindboggling to see that the medical establishment had been let off the hook with just a nominal penalty despite the fact that 95 nurses at Darul Sehat Hospital were found to be unregistered and unqualified.

They submitted that the commission was responsible for ensuring quality services at the hospitals registered with it and for taking action against those involved in negligence, but it only visited Darul Sehat Hospital when it was forced to do so by the unfortunate circumstances of Nashwa’s case. Besides, they alleged that the report of the commission showed how it protected the healthcare facilities and establishments and only staffers were made a scapegoat.

Citing the federal and provincial health ministries, the PMDC and the Sindh Health Care Commission as respondents, the court was requested to direct the respondents to implement the act and other prevalent laws in letter and spirit.

They requested the court to direct the government to carry out a third party evaluation through an independent performance/clinical audit of healthcare establishments as per the act and to seal/shut down unlicensed healthcare establishments.

The petitioners also sought the framing of standard operating procedures in line with internationally recognised medical practices and the World Health Organisation guidelines. They also called for canceling the licences of medical establishments which had been found guilty of medical negligence.

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