Rashida Khatoon, 50, a resident of Rawalpindi, is fighting for life with stomach cancer in the emergency ward of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims). Her condition is critical and needs to be admitted in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). But due to shortage of beds at Pims and all the government hospitals of the twin cities she has been left lurking in the emergency department.
“She was getting treatment in Nuclear Oncology and Radiotherapy Institute (NORI) but on Monday evening when her condition worsened the doctors referred her to Pims,” said Mazhar Khan, brother of Rashida Khatoon.
However no specialist doctor was on duty to examine her and give her timely treatment over there.
“From 6 pm to 11 pm no doctor was available in the department only the junior staff was giving her initial treatment like checking the blood pressure and putting her on oxygen,” said Khan.
However, after the complaint about the non-availability of a bed in the ICU to the higher management, some doctors came and examined her. They also promised that they would try to get the patient a bed by 5am.
“In the morning they stopped giving treatment to the patient and asked us to take her back to Nori Hospital,” he said.
“It is not easy to keep her in the emergency ward as it becomes difficult to control her when she sees people dying or coming with serious injuries,” he added.
Pims Executive Director Mehmood Jamal told The Express Tribune that there was a scarcity of beds in the ICU. “To increase it we need more funds, infrastructure, staff and equipment,” he added.
When contacted Dr Sharif Astori, spokesman for Polyclinic, said there are only 40 beds in the ICUs of the hospital. All of these were occupied.
“There is a massive shortage of beds in the ICU, as they can not be vacated no matter how critical a case the hospital receives,” he said.
He further said due to the lack of beds it had become a little too difficult to manage, especially during an emergency situation.
Moreover, talking to The Express Tribune, Bashir Malik spokesman for the Benazir Bhutto Hospital (BBH), Rawalpindi also offered the same excuse saying there are only 10 beds in the ICU of the hospital which were all occupied.
“There is a scarcity of beds but what can we do? We try to manage critical patients in emergency or other wards,” he said. On Tuesday morning, he said, the hospital received a patient with severe burn injuries and urgently needed to be admitted in the ICU but due to non-availability of space the patient had to be kept in the emergency ward. “He was not in a condition to be moved to another hospital,” he added.
Holy Family Hospital (HFH) in Rawalpindi, it was learnt, has only 12 beds in the medical ICU, 12 in coronary care unit (CCU) and six in surgical ICU which was not enough for the number of patients coming to the hospital.
“The hospital receives patients from far-flung areas too, some even expire due to the lack of space in the ICU,” said a senior doctor of HFH on the condition of anonymity.
Dr Raja Shafiq Sarwar, official spokesman of HFH said when the number of critical patients increases in the hospital, they tried to manage them by providing extra space in the wards which obviously was not an easy task and also not favourable for the patient as well.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2011.