Friday August 12, 2022

Patients suffer as PIC struggling to root out infection

June 13, 2022

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar Institute of Cardiology (PIC) has been struggling to root out the source of infection that is causing inconvenience to patients and damaging the image of the cardiac centre.

According to the hospital staff, it was the fourth time in the past one and a half years that all operation centres were shut due to the outbreak of the infection.

The infection has taken the lives of five children so far. Many are fighting for their lives after undergoing cardiac surgeries at PIC.

Besides the children, 225 adult patients had also contracted a serious infection during cardiac surgeries in PIC. They suffered for some time as their wounds took a longer time to cure, but luckily none of them lost their lives as a result of infection.

The hospital administration has constituted an inquiry committee under hospital director Dr Niamat Shah to find out reasons behind spread of the infection. According to insiders, the issue started around nine months ago when patients started suffering from serious infection and returned to the hospital with wounds full of pus.

“I think the hospital administration committed negligence in handling the situation. They neither responded to the issue professionally nor taken corrective measures to save the life of patients,” one staff member told The News.

It created unrest among the faculty members and they decided to raise the issue in the best interest of the patients and PIC.

“There is uncertainty in PIC. Some people have quit and others are likely to leave soon as almost all the faculty members are highly professional and foreign qualified and this infection scandal might damage their reputation,” another faculty member told The News on condition of anonymity. “Some patients contracted a serious infection and it affected their bones. It has never happened in history to open a minor operation theatre for infected patients coming to us on a daily basis,” the staff member said.

The hospital administration in the meantime called some teams from reputed health centres in Karachi and Islamabad to help them overcome the issue and identify the root cause of the infection.

None of them was able to identify the cause of the infection.

It was the Aga Khan Hospital team that thoroughly investigated the issue and collected water samples from different places in PIC. “The Aga Khan Hospital laboratory found an infection more dangerous than tuberculosis. It was not tuberculosis but similar to it and it’s treatment takes two years,” the hospital staff member said.

According to the hospital staff, the Aga Khan Hospital team was surprised when they came to know that the water being used in PIC had never been chlorinated. He said the Aga Khan Hospital team found that the infection was caused by the PIC.

“Would you believe, the doctors in PIC would wash their hands with tuberculosis infected water. And it was the water that caused this dangerous disease,” the staff member said. He said the infection broke out after September 2021 when the PIC started sterilising the surgical equipment itself.

Before that, they would send surgical equipment to Burns and Trauma Center for sterilisation and there was no problem during that period.

“Some of the qualified staff are fed up with the insulting attitude of the hospital administration and frequent outbreak of infection and they are likely to leave PIC,” one of the senior staff members told The News on condition of anonymity.

When reached, Medical Director PIC Prof Dr Shahkar Ahmad Shah confirmed the outbreak of the infection, but said things were not beyond their control.

“Yes it’s true we had some issues of infection in the past few months but luckily it didn’t cause any losses among the adult patients. We started surgeries in December 2020 and by August 2021 we didn’t have any issue,” Prof Shahkar recalled. He said the infection was first reported in September 2021 and then in October 2021.

In November 2021, the hospital administration decided not to shift the infected patients to the main operation theatre and rather set up a new operation theatre for them on emergency basis.

Dr Shahkar said they had sought services of a number of experts but since there was no expert of infection diseases in KP, therefore they had to call experts from other provinces.

In November 2021, he said they got worried when 13.15 percent of the patients contracted infection after their surgeries.

He said since the building was poorly constructed therefore they had to make several changes. Recently, two Cath labs were installed in the hospital but the infection was still a headache to them.

Dr Shahkar denied that the hospital’s water was causing the infection, saying the Aga Khan Hospital team collected water samples from all parts of the cardiac facility but only the water taken from the operation theatre tested positive for the infection. He said the infection was serious enough that it couldn’t be eradicated by chlorinating the water simply.

Dr Shahkar said they had traced the root cause of the disease and stated there had been massive civil works near the main operation theatre and was the dust that somehow reached the operation theatre and caused the infection.

Prof Shahkar, pioneer of cardiac surgery in KP, said they had installed anti-bacterial flooring in the operation theatre, paediatric ICU, and its surrounding areas. He said earlier the infection was deep in wounds but patients coming to them now were having superficial infection. He said the operation theatre was opened for emergency patients.