Thursday May 19, 2022

Patients suffer as 15 counters at LRH’s OPD remain closed

May 13, 2022

PESHAWAR: There seems no end to patients’ sufferings almost seven months after the corona pandemic became less severe in the country, as the administration of Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) has closed all the 15 counters in the main outpatient department (OPDs), forcing patients to wait for hours outside the only counter for getting an OPD slip.

The government has long lifted the lockdown and opened all public and private services for activities in the province.

Like other hospitals, the LRH administration had suspended OPDs operation by closing all the counters and establishing a filtration centre for all incoming patients when the second wave of the corona pandemic was declared in Pakistan.

The aim of the filtration centre was to segregate patients requiring extreme care from normal patients and then protect health workers from the viral infection when the pandemic was at its peak. Other hospitals have long restored OPD services and reopened all their counters for patients except the LRH, where not even the health minister can intervene, as the hospital is operated through a board of governors, headed by an influential person such as Dr Nausherwan Burki, better known as Dr Burki.

According to the faculty members in LRH, OPD services were first restored on a limited scale and then on a full scale when the covid pandemic was over but it didn’t help the patients as all the 15 counters in the main OPD block were kept closed.

“I don’t understand who is running this biggest public sector hospital in the province. Whenever there is a bad or negative thing, it is attributed to Dr Burki, but I don’t believe he would be too unwise to make this decision that is causing inconvenience to the poor patients,” a senior faculty member told The News on condition of anonymity. He said 2,500-3,000 patients come to the LRH daily and all of them need to wait for hours in one long queue for obtaining an OPD chit from a single counter.

The majority of the patients come from other districts with serious health issues but they are made to wait for hours only to get the OPD chit.

For the past few months, there has been no death reported from the coronavirus in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, though every day over a dozen positive cases of coronavirus are reported.

However, the LRH administration didn’t feel the suffering of the patients and preferred to keep the OPD counters closed, for reasons best known to them. According to the faculty members, the patients and their attendants had raised their grievances multiple times but these were not taken seriously by the hospital administration.

Also, most of the patients return home without availing services of the specialist doctors as, by the time they get an OPD chit, the specialists are gone.

“Whenever my relatives and friends want to come to OPD in LRH, I discourage them because of this issue as instead of waiting for hours in a long queue to get an OPD chit, it is better to go to a private clinic of the specialist doctor,” a senior physician of Medicine Department told The News. He said the hospital offers quality services but only when you get the OPD chit or are enrolled for indoor treatment. The doctor said this issue of a single counter and forcing all the patients to go through the triage or filtration centre is meaningless in the current situation.

According to the faculty members, they had brought the issue to the notice of the medical director of the hospital more than once but he didn’t take it seriously.

Also, the LRH used to receive 5,000-6,000 patients in OPDs but the hospital administration had restored limited services, though there is an army of doctors and other health workers costing millions of rupees from the exchequer every month.

The doctors’ bodies in the hospital accused the LRH administration of forcing the patients to visit

the evening time clinics of doctors in their institutional-based private clinics.

“There is nothing else but forcing these poor patients to visit the doctors under the Institution-Based Practices. Look at this major hospital with hundreds of doctors costing millions of rupees and they can’t provide services to less than 2,000 patients in OPDs,” a trained medical officer in the Medicine Department remarked.

According to sources, Dr Burki was in the LRH on Thursday and personally witnessed patients waiting in a long queue under the scorching sun.

He is the first cousin of chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and ex-prime minister Imran Khan. He is the architect of so-called health reforms in KP and is known as the de facto health minister. Though Dr Burki has a lot of contributions to the health services in KP, he is believed to have been misguided on important issues by some people close to him in LRH, prompting him to take certain controversial decisions that have annoyed the faculty members and most of the seniors preferred to quit. When reached, Mohammad Asim, the LRH spokesman told The News that around 3,000 patients daily visit LRH’s OPD.

He said they had set up filtration clinics for OPD patients outside of the main OPD building where nine counters have been established for OPD slips.

“BoG Chairman Prof Nausherwan Burki visited the filtration clinics today and directed the LRH admin to increase the counters to 14 as soon as possible.

“The purpose of the filtration clinic is to ensure timely checkup for those with minor complaints while those patients in need of specialist opinion are referred to consultant OPD for further investigation and admission,” the spokesman explained. He added that the hospital administration is going to take immediate action to decrease the waiting time to the minimum possible extent by increasing the counters.