Mandatory delays

June 21, 2020

Your CNIC is the first thing you are asked to provide, at a testing lab or hospital. But this could cause criminal delays in treatment of Covid patients

“The rapid spread of the pandemic does not mean there is a way to fast-track issuing of new CNICs.”

What happens first when you go to a laboratory or hospital to get yourself tested for coronavirus? You are asked to show your computerised national identity card (CNIC). That’s mandatory for every single person wanting to get tested for the infection. This might be depriving many poor patients of timely medical treatment, especially those without a CNIC.

Interestingly, district and health authorities do not openly say that such tests are subject to a prior submission of the patients’ CNICs at the hospitals and/or testing labs, but the accounts of patients and their attendants suggest that they are.

Jamshed Khan, a resident of Garhi Shahu, relates the agony he went through shortly after he took his ailing father to a private hospital in Thokar Niaz Baig area, on account of a medical emergency. “It was a nightmare for us,” Khan tells TNS. “It happened around two weeks ago. My father was complaining of shortness of breath. We thought he’d got asthma or pneumonia.

“We had already wasted a lot of time trying to find a bed in several public hospitals for my father whose condition was deteriorating by the day. Eventually, we took him to this private hospital.”

Their misery wasn’t going to end soon. The hospital administration refused to admit Khan’s father or provide him emergency medical treatment, because they did not have his CNIC on them. “My father’s condition was getting worse, and now we faced the callous attitude of the hospital administration.

A lot of Covid-19 patients try to conceal their identity and provide fake home addresses to hospitals and testing labs. — Photo by Rahat Dar

“The duty doctor told us that our father could be Covid-19 positive, and that CNIC was a prerequisite for patients with [Corona] symptoms. He [the doctor] told me that they could neither offer any [medical] treatment nor conduct the necessary tests without us furnishing the CNIC.”

Khan insists that the delay caused his father to suffer a great deal. “I tried to convince the hospital administration that we had forgot to bring my father’s CNIC because we had left the house in a hurry. My father was in a critical condition and it would waste another couple of hours if I went to fetch his CNIC. I also offered them the use of my CNIC or my brother’s, but they wouldn’t listen.”

To cut the long story short, no one attended to Khan’s old and ailing father who had fainted by the time a family member at home discovered a scanned copy of the CNIC and Whatsapped it to Jamshed Khan. The rest, as they say, is history.

Tariq Masood Farooqa, director of Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), tells TNS that the CNIC is the main tool in contact tracing and identifying hotspots of the virus in the city.

“It’s been observed that due to various reasons many patients and their families try to conceal their identity and give wrong residential addresses.”

Interestingly, district as well as health authorities do not openly declare that such tests are subject to a prior submission of the patients’ CNICs at the hospitals and/or testing labs, but the accounts of patients and their attendants suggest that they are.

Farooqa also speaks of “fake addresses” being provided to hospitals and testing labs to mislead the authorities: “CNICs are mandatory. Lately, we’ve been able to seal several areas of the city only with help of the data collected through the patients’ ID cards. They are an effective tool in the hands of the administration.”

Farooqa recounts several incidents where the patient who were from outside Lahore, tried to deceive the authorities by getting themselves tested in Lahore but after their results came back Covid-positive, they disappeared from the scene. “We reached out to the concerned district authorities so that the persons could be brought back to the hospital for treatment.”

However, he says that in special cases where the patients may not have their CNICs on them, they can provide the CNICs of their close relatives, before going for a test at a laboratory or hospital without any hindrance.

DROP CAP

Faiq Ali, the spokesperson for National Database Authority (NADRA), says that the rapid spread of the pandemic does not mean there is a way to expedite issuing of new CNICs. “The procedure for issuance of new CNICs to the citizens who’ve reached the age of maturity remains the same.”

He says that the NADRA has reopened its offices countrywide to facilitate citizens. “People have been advised to use facemasks and hand santisers, and adopt pre-emptive measures to avail the facilities. They must follow all safety guidelines. Our employees have also been directed to ensure safety protocols.”

According to Ali, the CNICs which expired between September 2019 and June 2020 are being accepted, until July.

Dr Ejaz Warriach, a senior doctor at Jinnah Hospital, denies that producing the CNIC is mandatory for coronavirus patients. “People are being treated at Jinnah [hospital] on daily basis. When the patients are brought to the hospital for treatment of the disease, they are first asked to furnish their CNICs for admission and treatment purposes. However, if the patient does not have the CNIC on him, a close relative is asked to submit a copy for hospital record.

“The doctors’ priority is not to grab hold of the patients’ CNICs; it’s to provide them with necessary medical treatment without delay,” he adds.


The writer is a senior journalist and can be reached at
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Pre-requisite of CNIC for COVID-19 patients puts their life at risk