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June 24, 2021

LRH admin’s conditional OPD services leave patients in limbo

PESHAWAR: Though the administration of the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) has opened services phase-wise, it has made it mandatory for all the patients to either bring along a certificate of Covid-19 vaccination or negative PCR report if they want to be examined by doctors at the outpatient department or institution-based private practice clinics in the hospital.

“As per direction of chairman BoGs (Board of Governors), all patients prior to being seen in the outpatient departments or IBP, must have either proof of Covid vaccination or a negative report of PCR or antigen test. In the absence of these, they can’t be seen,” a notification quoted the LRH acting medical director Assistant Professor Dr Abdul Baseer.

The decision of the BoG chairman was not less than a surprise to the faculty members. Most wondered how all the patients would first do their PCR test and then visit the doctor either in the OPD or IBP.

LRH is the largest public sector hospital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in terms of bed capacity as well as doctors and other healthcare providers.

The BoG had suspended all services of the hospital and closed its doors to patients suffering from diseases other than the coronavirus.

The hospital has 33 departments, 1,691 beds and 4,500 staff, including 1,350 doctors, but all departments remained closed as the BoG wanted to provide services to the corona patients.

The two other tertiary care hospitals in Peshawar - Khyber Teaching Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex - had successfully managed to handle the corona pandemic but at the same time provided services to patients suffering from other health complications.

When the disease was at its peak, around 450 beds were occupied by the corona patients in LRH.

Some of the services were recently restored but the facility members feared patients may not come to them keeping in view the tough conditions of bringing vaccine certificates or negative PCR tests to OPD or IBP. “Besides these reasons, patients actually avoid going to IBP as most of the doctors sitting there are new and junior. Almost all of them are assistant professors. Also, patients don’t go to hospitals where they cannot get free services on Sehat cards,” a faculty member at the LRH told The News.

After applying the new criteria of bringing a negative PCR report that costs Rs1,800 approximately in a private health facility, it would be difficult for the hospital administration to convince patients to do PCR test first as they would have to pay from their own pocket. “The LRH administration and other public sector hospitals would need to start Sehat card services in case they want patients to come to IBP. At the moment the private sector hospitals are making a huge amount of money from the Sehat card service,” he added.

Also, it has been noted that patients even avoid going to senior doctors due to lack of Sehat card facility.

The surgeons who used to operate in private clinics in the Dabgari Garden locality of Peshawar made lot of money by undertaking a number of procedures.

Their income had drastically reduced as they don’t have the Sehat card service in those ill-equipped private centres.

“Nowadays, junior surgeons working in private centres such as Pak Medical Centre in Khyber Bazaar are making more money than their supervisors and professors as the centre where they are operating has the Sehat card facility,” said the LRH faculty member.

Even in normal days before the corona pandemic, according to sources, per day procedures of Pak Medical Centre were quite higher than any of the public sector hospitals as the state-run hospitals don’t have the Sehat card facility.

In LRH, there is also no Sehat card facility for the IBP patients even if the earning for the hospital is 90 percent and only 10 percent is given to the doctors. “The hospital administration doesn’t want the doctors to get 10 percent share from Sehat Cards, causing a loss of 90 percent revenue generation to the LRH,” a doctor argued.

A noted general surgeon used to see dozens of patients in his private clinic in the Dabgari Garden and then operate till late night.

Now since he is not operating on Sehat card, the number of patients in his clinic has drastically reduced. He called an anaesthetist for a single surgery but he didn’t come as he was busy with doctors junior than him at a private medical centre where the Sehat card facility is available.

“The surgeon is a professor and is known for his skills but can’t get patients for surgery as he is lacking the Sehat card facility. On the other hand, his trainee medical officer operated on 15 patients in one day on a Sehat card at a private centre,” a senior faculty member of the hospital told The News. It is widely believed that private medical and surgical centres are milking the national exchequer through the Sehat card.

Also, there are so many ill-equipped so-called medical centres that have been accredited for the Sehat card facility. They don’t even have basic facilities and the intensive care unit but still make millions of rupees from the Sehat card service.

The Peshawar Institute of Cardiology (PIC) and cardiac surgery department of Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) are the only health facilities where patients can seek treatment on Sehat card.

However, the Sehat card patients requiring cardiac surgery would need to wait till 2023 due to rush of patients. Paid patients don’t need to wait for months and years.

In PIC, all patients from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are handled as Sehat card patients. But these patients needing cardiac surgery are given distant dates up to 2022 due to reasons best known to the PIC authorities.