Patient overload: PIMS desperately short of ventilators

Young man died of brain condition seemingly due to lack of life support systems


Asma Ghani December 05, 2016

ISLAMABAD: A young man died at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) on Monday because the hospital did not have enough ventilators to save his life.

The incident, allegedly due to a shortage of life support systems at one of the biggest tertiary care hospitals of the country, has once again alluded to the crumbling infrastructure at government-run healthcare centres.

According to hospital staff, 20-year-old Mohammad Wazir, a Mianwali native, suffering from brainstem encephalitis had been brought to Pims on Sunday.

Wazir’s family claimed that doctors at the hospital had asked them to shift the patient to any other hospital where ventilators were available, hinting that the systems were in short supply at Pims. In the meantime, Wazir died on Monday.

Pims administrator Dr Altaf Hussain maintained that the patient had been brought in critical and it was hard to say whether he died due to the lack of life support facilities, as every critical care patient may not require ventilators.

But he admitted that they “always have a shortage of ventilators…and cannot risk letting existing patients die for new patients”.

Demand

Pims officials confided that there are at least 44 working ventilators in the main hospital building.

However, they said that even if a hundred new life support systems are added, it would not be enough to cater to the increasing patient load.

Of the 44 existing machines, 20 are for adults and the rest for children and newborns, the official said.

Initially, the hospital had nine to 10 ventilators, “then we purchased more and used to have about 20,” he said.

But now, even over 40 ventilators are not enough since the hospital gets 60 to 65 critical care patients every day from surrounding districts including Jehlum, Gujrat and parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan.

In total, the hospital campus has 92 ventilators including in its children, maternal and child healthcare and burn care centers.

Dr Altaf said that the hospital has about 120 critical care beds which always remain occupied with several patients waiting in the wings, hoping that they are allotted beds as soon as one is vacated.

This is the only hospital in the area providing critical care to such a large number of patients, he said, adding the situation cannot be improved until the rural, district, and provincial hospitals are overhauled to treat patients living nearby.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2016.

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