Four deaths of terminally ill patients at the children’s hospital on Thursday have been incorrectly linked to the nursing strike as the institution’s daily mortality rate is about five.
A post-graduate doctor on duty at the medical ICU, Atif Mansoor, explained. “[The National Institute of Child Health] is the only child-care tertiary hospital receiving patients from both Sindh and Balochistan,” he said. “And sad as it is, it is ‘normal’ for us to get terminally ill patients in the emergency every day.”
Even the guards at the gate, whose duty it is to collect the discharge slips for every out-going patient, said that at least four children died each day.
Another doctor on duty at NICH, who did not want to be named, said that about 200 patients were admitted currently, out of which almost half were critical. “But that’s how it is,” she said. “We get a lot of neglected cases and we try to admit the most needy ones in our set-up.”
Dr Zareen Qasmi, who was on duty at the NICH emergency, explained that the last person on duty did not leave until the next person arrived.
The nursing and paramedical staff striking for fair pay and promotions may have been gathering at the Karachi Press Club in hordes, but some of them are still turning up at work.
At the Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Centre on Thursday, road accidents and gunshot cases were tended to. Otherwise, it was deserted as was Civil hospital.
At CHK, the paramedical staff came to work, but the nursing staff was absent, said Prof. Saeed Quraishy, the medical superintendent. “We had to import outside nursing staff to run the casualty and ICU,” he said. “Final-year students from the Life Saving School of Nursing came.”
Abbasi Shaheed Hospital medical superintendent Dr Nadeem Rajput said that the nursing and paramedic staff had been in full attendance.
Aijaz Ali Kaleri of the Provincial Nurses Association said that while the protest continued their staff did duty at the emergencies and ICUs from Wednesday night. Many nurses said that they were joining the protest after their shifts.
Nonetheless, the reports of children’s deaths caused such a stir that by evening, the prime minister asked the Sindh government to investigate. The chief minister was scheduled to address a press conference but it was cancelled and the matter was handed over to a new committee. Sindh Health Minister Dr Sagheer Ahmed and Sindh Finance Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah will immediately meet to discuss the demands.
There has been no word on the demands. Kaleri said that they will continue their strike until it is made official.
The nurses of Hyderabad continued their token boycott and protests on Thursday, adding another demand, for action against the policemen who used water cannons and teargas to disperse protesters marching towards Governor House in Karachi.
The nurses have been asking for a raise in salaries, stipends and allowances so that they are paid the same as nurses in other provinces.
Nurses staged sit-ins in Shaheed Benazirabad, Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Badin and other districts.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2012.