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December 2, 2019

‘Unholy alliance endangering lives of patients’


December 2, 2019

Islamabad : The “unholy alliance between medical professionals and the medical industry” is responsible for endangering the lives of patients in Pakistan. This nexus needs to be broken without further delay if the interests of patients are to be safeguarded.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza made this observation while speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the 4th International Conference on Patient Safety here Saturday night. “On the one hand, unlicensed medical practitioners or quacks are playing with the lives of people, and on the other, qualified practitioners are receiving unethical sponsorships and prescribing wrong medicines to patients,” Dr. Zafar pointed out at the conference, which has been organized by Riphah International University and Riphah Institute of Healthcare Improvement and Safety, in collaboration with the Institute of Leadership Excellence (ILE) and Rawalpindi Medical University.

Dr. Zafar shared that last month, a formula milk company sent 40 pediatricians to Spain on a five-day leisure trip in the garb of a conference. In return, these pediatricians were supposed to prescribe formula milk of the said company for babies in place of breastmilk, although Pakistan has very low ratio of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months in the world, he added.

Dr. Zafar also hinted at the establishment of the Islamabad Health Regulatory Authority on the pattern of the provincial healthcare commissions; this trained inspectorate and workforce will examine all private healthcare facilities and close down those being run by unlicensed practitioners and quacks. “The time has arrived to enforce regulations on both licensed and unlicensed medical practitioners and facilities in order to secure patient safety,” he emphasized, adding that the Cabinent has just another law that would be called the Islamabad Healthcare Facilities Management Act which would exclusively look into the management of public healthcare facilities and make them patient safety friendly health facilities.

Dr. Zafar also highlighted the health perils associated with the reuse of syringes, as well as unsafe injection and poor infection control practices. “The HIV outbreak in Ratodero was a result of unsafe injection practices and poor infection control and I would call it just a trailer as countrywide screening for HIV prevalence would shock everybody,” he said and lauded Riphah University for incorporating patient safety in its undergraduate medical curriculum. He informed that the newly-established Pakistan Medical Commission would not only set standards of medical practice but would also reset the curriculum of undergraduate medical education in Pakistan.

Earlier, in his keynote address, international patient safety expert from Wayne State University, US, Prof. Dr. Paul Barach said spending more money on healthcare will not solve the issue of patient safety, and called for spending more on leadership in healthcare and changing the existing culture in health facilities to ensure patient wellbeing.

Another international expert from Usher Institute, University of Edinburg, Prof. Dr. Aziz Shaikh, called for enhancing health literacy, use of technology, and increasing patient-doctor interaction to reduce chances of medical negligence. Director Institute of Leadership Excellence Dr. Zakiuddin Ahmed called for developing healthcare professionals as leaders and informed that said they have established Institute of Leadership Excellence as a CSR activity that would train healthcare professionals and physicians to ensure patient safety.

Chancellor Riphah International University Hassan M. Khan, Prof. Dr. Anis Ahmed, VC RIU, Prof. Dr. Muhammad Umar, VC Rawalpindi Medical University, Ali Akhai Chairman Martin Dow group, and Deputy Surgeon General of Pakistan Army Maj. General Salman Ashraf also spoke on the occasion.

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