Hospital hijinks: Healthcare system pathetic, in a shambles: Supreme Court

Questions why Polyclinic is paying seven times what private hospitals pay for nitrogen


Hasnaat Malik August 12, 2016
“With the advent of the targeted operation in Karachi, the activities of various militant wings of political parties have been contained to a greater extent,” Sindh chief secretary Muhammad Siddique Memon maintained in the report. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: Expressing concerns over the poor state of public health , the top court has observed that the state of healthcare  is  not only pathetic but also in shambles. The bench also criticised health managers for failing to adhere to the Hippocratic Oath.

A two-judge bench of the apex court, comprising Acting Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, resumed on Friday the hearing of suo motu case regarding the alleged misappropriation of medicines as well as graft in the supply of oxygen and nitrogen gas to the Federal Government Services Hospital, popularly known as Polyclinic.

The bench in its order observed that the right to life  is overarched by the right  of freedom of  trade which in  no  case is unfettered, unrestricted and unqualified if considered in terms of Article 18 of the Constitution.

“What is the state of laboratories in public sector hospitals? Why are they out-of-order? And if they are in order, why do their results not conform with those of reputed private sector laboratories,” says the order.

The court also observed that doctors, like other professionals, have a right to become wealthy, but not at the cost of ailing humanity.

During the hearing,  senior Standing Counsel Nayyab Gardezi submitted a report about the equipment  installed in Islamabad’s hospitals with details of how  many are  functional order and how  many are inoperable.

The bench observed that the picture painted in the report appears to be rosy, but the ground realities are to the contrary. Some of the facts and figures appear to be fudged, they added.

The court noted that the total number of ventilators available at Polyclinic is listed as 22, out of which 6 are non-functional.

“This figure also appears to be exaggerated. Refilling of nitrous oxide cylinder 16,200 litres is had at the rate of Rs22,000 per cylinder in Polyclinic, but no authentic figure has been provided from private hospitals”, says the order.

The bench has directed the standing counsel to collect information from Medics, Quaid-e-Azam Hospital, and Shifa International Hospital for comparison.

“A surgeons at Shifa International Hospital stated that the refilling of nitrous oxide cylinders is done at a rate of 3,000 per  cylinder,” says the order, while noting that documented evidence for this would be required.

During the hearing, Dr Arshad Rana and Dr Sartaj undertook to provide authentic data from hospitals and pharmacies on why medicines with proven efficacy are eliminated to make way for prescription of more  expensive and less effective medicines.

Dr Shaista Habibullah, representing the National Institute of Rehabilitation  Medicine (NIRM), stated  that the equipment in the hospitals can meet the needs of patients requiring long-term management and that  destitute patients are provided free treatment. In The order, the bench appreciates these points but also asks why half of the equipment is out-of-order.

The advocates-general of  all four provinces have  also been  directed to provide details of the machinery and other equipment in DHQ hospitals and their operational states by August 18.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2016.

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