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Tuesday November 30, 2021

Seven KTH staff members suspended after inquiry into patients’ deaths

December 08, 2020

PESHAWAR: The Board of Governors (BoG) of the Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) on the recommendations of an inquiry committee held seven officials of the tertiary care hospital, including Hospital Director Dr Tahir Nadeem, responsible for the shortage of oxygen and issued their suspension orders on Monday.

The BoG gave the charge of hospital director to Prof Roohul Muqeem for the time being. However, according to insiders, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and Health Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra were neither satisfied with seven years work of the BoG nor its inquiry and called the board meeting at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat and gave them the task of coming with more appropriate actions to the next meeting.

Seven patients, six of them Covid-19 patients, and a child in the pediatric unit had died in KTH on Saturday night for lack of oxygen in the hospital. The government had directed the BoG to conduct an immediate inquiry into the incident and take action against those responsible for the loss of the precious lives.

The BoG had formed a three-member inquiry committee comprising a senior surgeon Prof Roohul Muqeem, as its head, Dr Farman Khan and Dr Saud Islam Malik and tasked it to submit a report in 48 hours.

The inquiry committee held its meeting on Sunday night and sent its recommendations to the BoG soon after an initial inquiry. As per recommendations of the inquiry committee, the BoG put the responsibility on seven officials of the hospital for the oxygen shortage that led to the loss of seven human lives.

The board then issued their suspension order and sent the report to the Chief Minister’s Secretariat. The suspended employees included Dr Tahir Nadeem Khan, Hospital Director, Tahir Shahzad, Facility Manager KTH, Ali Waqas, Manager Supply Chain, Bilal Babak, Biomedical Engineer, Niamat , Oxygen Plant Assistant, Waheed, Oxygen plant duty employee and Shahzad Akbar, Oxygen plant duty employee.

It further added that standards of Pakistan Oxygen Limited monitoring and supply system will be further investigated and the hospital will hire qualified and trained staff for the oxygen plant of the hospital.

The BoG pledged that primary and secondary backup system for the oxygen plant will be established on an emergency basis. It claimed that a proper command and control system of oxygen supply will be established as well, and a proper emergency rescue squad will be organised for the hospital and drills carried out for better preparedness in future.

The BoG carried out the inquiry through Prof Roohul Muqeem and then gave him charge of the hospital director. Though Prof Roohul Muqeem is known for his integrity, some of the faculty members felt he should have refused to accept the additional charge of the hospital director as it would create doubts about the inquiry report.

“This is another blunder of the BoG as they should have given the responsibility of HD to someone else. He did his job and should have declined this offer,” one senior faculty member of the hospital opined.

People in the hospital administration claimed that nobody was willing to accept the HD charge and even Prof Dr Muqeem had declined to accept but he had to give in on the insistence of the BoG.

According to government officials, the incident had embarrassed the provincial government and therefore it had to accept the inquiry report which the KTH Board of Governors shared on Sunday night. However, they claimed it neither satisfied the chief minister nor health minister and therefore the board members were called to a high-level meeting.

“In the inquiry report and recommendations, the board has charge-sheeted itself as if the problem was there since 2017, was the BoG sleeping? Four HDs were replaced during this time but the thugs in BoG continued to serve during this time,” said one senior government official.

Pleading anonymity, he said same was the case with air-conditioning of the hospital as instead of solving this long-standing problem, the BoG opted for buying split air conditioners wasting millions of rupees.

“And then same is with modular operation theatres and renovation. Incompetent and corrupt BoG is the problem which the government has failed to address and will continue to ignore; yet expect miracles to happen,” he said.

It is believed that Dr Faisal Sultan, who remained chairman of the KTH board for six years, had caused huge damage to the hospital, as he used to remain busy with affairs of Shaukat Khanam Cancer Hospital Lahore. Some of the BoG members misused this opportunity and served their interests.

Dr Faisal had to surrender this responsibility after his elevation as an adviser to the prime minister on health. The two new members added to the board recently were Prof Nadeem Khawar and Prof Zafar Durrani. Both had recently retired from the KTH.

Prof Nadeem Khawar was head of the paediatric department while Prof Zafar Durrani was head of orthopaedic department. Prof Nadeem Khawar was then made chairman of the board. Some members are known for their extraordinary interest in micro-level issues of the hospital and particularly in procurement rather than patient care.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has termed insufficient the suspension of seven officials of KTH and directed its BoG to conduct further inquiry into the matter covering all the aspects of the incident fix responsibility and take strict action against the responsible ones including their termination from service.

He has made it clear that all those responsible for the incident would not be spared, adding that if the BoG didn’t take strict action against the responsible quarters, then the provincial government will intervene and conduct an independent inquiry.

He was chairing a special meeting on the KTH incident here at Chief Minister’s Secretariat on Monday. Cabinet members Taimur Saleem Jhagra, Sultan Khan, Shaukat Yousfzai, Kamran Bangash, Advocate General, Secretary Health, Director General Health, Chairman BoG, KTH and other members of the BoG attended the meeting.

The meeting reviewed the preliminary inquiry report and appreciated the BoG and health department for conducting the preliminary inquiry within 24 hours instead of 48 hours.

The BoG was directed to conduct an inquiry and chalk out course of action in the matter, and it was decided that another meeting would be held by coming Friday to review progress in the matter.

The chief minister while giving policy direction for further course of action directed the authorities concerned to proceed against the government employees involved in the matter as per the relevant rules and regulations of the government and to proceed against the institutional employees involved under the relevant rules and regulations of the institution.

Mahmood Khan directed the senior officials of the Health Department to devise a strategy to avoid such tragic incidents in future and to streamline all such matters of the teaching hospitals across the province. He announced Rs1 million compensation amount for each bereaved family.