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July 11, 2019

Dysfunctional AC plant at KTH makes patients, staff suffer alike


July 11, 2019

PESHAWAR: Despite the rise in temperature, there seems no end to woes of the patients, their attendants and the staff members of Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH), where the air-conditioning plant has stopped functioning since long and the hospital administration is least bothered to get it fixed.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had provided Rs500 million for the air-conditioning plant and Rs700 million for the renovation of KTH three years ago, but neither the AC plant was installed nor the renovation work was completed.

Many senior faculty members wanted the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Chief Minister Mahmood Khan to take note of the patients’ woes and order an inquiry to ascertain where the funds were spent and why the renovation work could not be completed.

The previous government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had provided funds and the contractor was supposed to complete the renovation work in six months.

According to official sources, the same architect had to supervise the two projects in KTH.

A former member of the Board of Governors (BoG) of KTH and chairman of the Chief Minister Complaint Cell Dilroz Khan, used to be close to then chief minister Pervez Khattak, had reportedly brought the architect to the KTH and allegedly used his influence to help him get the contract.

A number of senior doctors nominated as technical committee members had opposed the design of the architect presented to them by the Lahore-based firm. And despite their opposition, he was allotted the contract.

He could not complete his job in the stipulated six-month time. He got extension after extension. There is ambiguity who is going to pay loses caused by the delayed work.

According to senior officials, millions of rupees were spent on repair of the air-conditioning plant in the past, but it would resolve the issue for a few months during each summer.

When the summer arrives, the KTH administration is reminded about the faulty AC plant and then technical experts are called and oil purchased on an emergency basis to provide some sort of relief to the patients, attendants and hospital staff.

But for the past two to three years, the entire hospital has been without the air-conditioning facility, causing sufferings to patients and staff members.

The AC plant has become old as it has completed its lifespan but it becomes a good source of income for many people holding positions in KTH, as they justify spending funds on its repair every year.

Interestingly, recently when a judge visited the hospital to see a patient he learnt about the sufferings of the patients.

The judge directed the KTH administration to make some arrangements and provide relief to the patients.

It was another justification for the hospital administration to procure dozens of heavy air-conditioners in the name of patients. Some were installed in wards and many others were given to the offices of the hospital administration and low-grade employees.

The situation is particularly pathetic in surgical units but in the two orthopaedic units, there is not a single AC. The same is the case with paediatric surgery where children can be seen crying.

“I will never complain if the chief minister or the health minister come and stay for five minutes in any of the orthopaedic units. My heart is sinking here and the same is the condition of other doctors here,” an orthopaedic surgeon complained when this correspondent visited the orthopaedic department.

And on Tuesday, the doctors of the ENT department stopped working due to what they termed ‘intolerable’ hot in their wards. The doctors then lodged a protest with the medical director.

“What will happen to these newly purchased air-conditioners costing millions of rupees when the AC plant is installed,” one senior faculty member asked.

And since the hospital was designed for the central air-conditioning plant, it seems quite awkward to see outdoor units of split ACs installed to walls inside the hospital corridors, where attendants of the patients used to sit and sleep.

Left with no other option, some of the patients and their attendants are required to bring pedestal fans as there is no way to spend a few moments in the wards.

Patients admitted for surgical procedures become the worst victims as the hospital has no proper ventilation system.

KTH was stated to be the first centrally air-conditioned hospital of the province inaugurated by former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1976.

Undue political interference, corruption, nepotism and violation of merit have badly affected the hospital. It used to be cold in summer and warm in winter due to its central air-conditioning plant.

The architect of this two-storey hospital building had perhaps no idea that a time will come that the AC plant will stop functioning and the government would remain clueless on how to resolve the issue.

The AC plant was installed in 1985 and stopped functioning properly in 2005 but since the hospital didn’t have a professional electrical engineer for its maintenance, and the non-technical people of the hospital played a major role in destroying the plant.

An inquiry committee made for issues related to the plant in 2007 headed by Prof Dr Arshad Javaid advised the hospital administration not to waste more resources on its repair and recommended its replacement.

But the KTH administration has spent a huge amount during these years instead of utilising available funds provided by the provincial government for purchasing a new plant, leaving the poor patients and staff members to suffer.

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