As many as 1,000 hepatitis B and C patients registered with the Sargodha district headquarters (DHQ) hospital in six months have been placed on a waiting list for lack of medicine, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Dr Sikandar Hayat, in charge of the special medicine clinic at the DHQ hospital, said medicines in stock were enough only to continue treatment of 300 patients registered before the supply was discontinued six months ago.
He said treatment of the 1,000 patients registered after suspension of supply would resume once medicine was available.
Medical Superintendent Ahmed Naeem Shaikh said the hospital administration did not get separate funds to purchase medicine used in the treatment of hepatitis B and C. “These medicines are supplied to all public hospitals by the Health Department. The supply has been suspended for six months,” he said. The medical superintendent said he was recently told a Department official that supply would resume in a few days.
About the shortage of antibiotics, MS Shaikh said all of the funds allocated for the purchase of these medicines had been used. He said the stock would be replenished as soon as more funds were available.
EDO (Health) Iqbal Samee Khan said the federal government had recently devolved the responsibility of supply of medicines for treatment of hepatitis B and C to the provinces. “It appears the suspension of supply is linked to this transfer,” he said.
Quacks treating hepatitis patients in Kotli Loharan
A shortage of hepatitis medicine at the Kotli Loharan rural health centre is causing most hepatitis patients in the town to get treatment from clinics run by quacks.
Several residents The Express Tribune talked to said they had started visiting these clinics after being diagnosed with the disease in blood tests they got done at private laboratories in the town. They said they had gone to the RHC with the test reports but were turned away as there was no medicine.
Tariq Mahmood, who claims to have a nursing diploma, says he has at least 25 hepatitis patients under treatment at his clinic.
He says he does not have a degree in medicine but people trust his experience and visit him with their problems. He says he charges between Rs40 and Rs50 per patient.
Babar Iqbal, another quack, says he is treating about 15 hepatitis patients at the moment.
RHC in charge Dr Jahangir Qaiser says there are no medicines at the RHC. On Monday, he said, some medicine had been purchased with funds provided by two Kotli Loharan residents (Muhammad Nawaz and Shaikh Saleem) who were settled in Japan.
“Five people visited the centre with hepatitis. Three were given medicine and discharged and two are still at the centre,” he says. He says so far 11 people have tested positive for hepatitis in blood tests carried out at the RHC laboratory.
Dr Qaiser says it appears poor drinking water quality is causing the disease. He says he has learnt that the water supply in the town is increasingly contaminated. He said he planned to start listing people testing positive for hepatitis who are visiting quacks. “I have requested some affluent people in the area to pool funds so that we can buy hepatitis medicines,” he said.
The water supply tank was last cleaned five years ago, town administration chief officer Muhammad Yousaf told The Tribune. He said he had been alerted about people suffering from hepatitis. He said he would request the administration to send workers to clean the tank in a couple of days.
With additional reporting from our correspondent
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2012.
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