Proactive treatment or reactive folly?

Instead of mismanagement and a callous approach to work from the hospital, media’s focus is on animals and cough syrup

Vaqas December 02, 2012
In the latest edition of headlines from the future, “To Address Cat Infestation, Dogs Released in Pindi Hospital Wards”, joins, “Drug OD Victim Was Using Pakistani Currency to Snort Cocaine, State Bank Governor Arrested”.

Sound silly?

Well so do the real stories from the past week.

In Rawalpindi, a newborn was bitten and scratched up by a rat at Holy Family Hospital, leading to the suspensions of a number of hospital staffers and a few people who had nothing to do with the unfortunate incident, such as Rawalpindi Medical College Principal Dr Mussadiq Khan. The RMC principal acts as the head of the college’s three allied teaching hospitals, one of which is HFH. On paper, he is the head of the hospital, but if he is to be removed, why shouldn’t the patron of the Pakistan Cricket Board, President Zardari, be prosecuted for his role in the spot-fixing scandal?


Because it makes no sense.

Unfortunately, few things do in the Land of Confusion.

Similarly in Lahore, the deaths 20-odd people who overdosed on cough syrup are being blamed on the manufacturer. Never mind that lab tests have shown nothing was wrong with the medicine and some of the dead had taken 500 times the recommended amount.

I love to eat steak and other forms of artery-clogging red meat, but I wouldn’t expect my heirs to sue a butcher if it kills me.

Despite mounting evidence that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the pharmaceutical company, the real responsible parties are barely being touched. If the manufacturer made quality drugs, and the distributor was only selling to licensed pharmacies, where would the guilt lie? Obviously with the regulators and any junkies who were getting high off the drug. Being poor isn’t an excuse.

Addiction is a problem in every society, but in Pakistan, the very fact that there are no safe and ‘legal’ highs means substance abuse is the only option for those that can’t enjoy themselves sober. While the rich can have usually trustworthy high-end drinks or access to other forms of more expensive, better quality contraband, most Pakistanis don’t.

That leaves them to use traditional hard and soft drugs, intoxicating medicine and alcohol, including the famed kuppi (Hate opening your eyes to the world every morning? Blindness guaranteed in a single drink).

Since it has been established that unlike the heart medicine issue earlier this year, the cough syrup was not at fault, rather it was an overdose, one goes after the users and dealers. Now since most of the abuser users are dead, that leaves the pharmacies. Were they selling the medicine in good faith, or did they know that the end user was only using them to get high. While hard to prove, if the latter is determined to be correct, action should be taken against the pharmacy owners and possibly the staff on duty.

Already, far too many pharmacies refuse to keep a qualified pharmacist on staff at all times the shops are open, while drug inspectors and law enforcement don’t do enough to punish unregistered manufacturers. This could be the point where those trends are reversed, but that would require proactive measures rather than reactive ones, which is not our ruling elite’s forte.

As for the rats, how about closing down the ward for a day or two and having exterminators gas up the place?

Not only would that kill the rats, bugs, and other vermin in the hospitals, it would eliminate the need for cats, which are themselves potential germ-spreading, disease-carrying animals. Plus they’re probably not neutered, and the sights and sounds of a cat in heat are the last thing a hospital needs.

Incidentally, a little birdie told me that parliamentarians took note of the rat case and ordered that the House be fumigated to remove its own resident rats. Hopefully the order will be clear on which kind of rats are to be removed.

The reactions in both cases also saw poor reporting, with an unrelated death blamed on the rats in Pindi, and the cough syrup manufacturer being blamed for the Lahore situation. If my fellow journalists had followed the basic principles of reporting, misreporting and theoretically, libel claims, would not have been an issue. Instead of mismanagement and a callous approach to work from the hospital and regulatory staffers, the media’s focus is on cats, dogs and cough syrup.

Meanwhile, word from the future is that lions are being brought in to amend the growing dog population in Pindi hospitals.

Read more by Vaqas here or follow him on Twitter @vasghar
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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