Raising questions: Saidu Teaching Hospital awaits promised upgrades

First phase ended in 2012, no signs of second phase beginning


Shehzad Khan August 19, 2016
First phase ended in 2012, no signs of second phase beginning. PHOTO: EXPRESS

MINGORA: Health facilities appear to be in a shambles as Saidu Teaching Hospital (STH) in Swat still awaits the second phase of its upgrade to commence.

Plans to upgrade the hospital kicked off in 2006 and were expected to cost Rs3 billion. At the time, it was decided that the hospital will be upgraded by the end of 2012 and the task was divided into two phases. The upgrade would have resulted in the addition of 1,250 beds to the facility. The first phase, completed in 2012, brought 500 beds to the hospital at a cost of Rs620 million.

“The Saidu hospital was built by the last Wali of Swat,” Azam Khan, a resident of Mingora, told The Express Tribune. “The aim was to cater to the needs of the people of the district. At the moment, STH is catering to the needs of the entire population of Malakand Division.”

Azam drew attention to the problems faced at STH, saying both patients and their attendants face an acute shortage of space. “The hospital has poor facilities,” he added.

Political point-scoring

Mehboob Ali, another resident, said influential leaders use STH for political point-scoring.

“Political parties bag votes by pledging to reform the health sector and upgrade facilities at STH,” he added.

According to Ali, the incumbent provincial government is also following in the footsteps of their predecessors in this respect.

“Both national and provincial assembly members from the region have attended multiple inaugural ceremonies for STH,” Ali said, unable to disguise the sarcastic lilt in his voice.

Overhaul

He added none of these members have ever pushed the relevant authorities to upgrade facilities. The emergency ward at STH lacks basic medicines and the medical staff is seldom on duty. The hospital’s ambulance has not been functional for several years. As a result, people have been compelled to arrange private vehicle to shift patients to Peshawar, adding to their financial burden.

Official narrative

When contacted, STH Chief Executive Dr Taj Mohammad Khan told The Express Tribune the health facility was given the status of a teaching hospital in 1998.

“[It was given the status] even though it lacks the required facilities to meet that criteria,” he added.

According to Taj Mohammad, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak has assured public grievances will be addressed and facilities will also be improved. He also promised that the second phase of the hospital’s upgrade will start soon, the chief executive said.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2016.

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