LAHORE: For Zehra Bibi, being poor spelled her doom. The 60-year-old from Kasur died after a heart attack on Monday when hospital after hospital in Lahore refused to treat her.
Her daughter had not even imagined taking back her mother back in a coffin while transporting her to Lahore, expecting to get better treatment in a bigger city with the government’s claims of state-of-the-art medical facilities.
The hospital infrastructure in the provincial metropolis was laid bare when several medical facilities failed to attend to a simple case of myocardial infarction.
“We first took her to the Punjab Institute of Cardiology, where doctors refused to treat her. We went to the Services Hospital, which also refused treatment. Only then we reached Jinnah Hospital, who refused saying they could not provide her a bed in the emergency ward,” Zehra’s daughter told The Express Tribune while shifting her mother’s body into an ambulance to take her back to her native town.
“Being poor is a sin in this country,” she lamented. “Doctors treated my mother on the ward floor.”
Dr Rana Arif at Jinnah hospital said the doctors should have transferred her to the intensive care unit, but they did not even provide her a bed in emergency. “Such incidents are taking place day and night and will be happening in the future as well until the government does not improve the health sector on priority basis,” he added.
The doctor said the patient was suffering from kidney failure and suffered a heart attack as well.
Approximately 8,000 to 10,000 patients are treated daily at the emergency and general wards of public hospitals in Lahore. Mayo Hospital’s emergency ward has 200 beds for a daily inflow of 3,000 patients while PIC has established a 100-bed facility along with the 16 old beds for over 50 patients daily.
Apart from being unable to cope with common diseases such as hypertension or lung ailments, the state-run hospitals also lack specialised operation theatres. Neither do the paediatricians, cardiothoracic surgeons or urologists have separate operation theatres, resulting in routine arguments between general surgeons and specialists.
A brewing crisis
Approximately 40 and 50 casualties are reported every day at the emergency rooms of Mayo and Jinnah, respectively. Similar numbers are recorded at most hospitals across Punjab.
Dr Salman Kazmi at Mayo Hospital admits many people die every day as the hospital has no proper medical facilities, even for common diseases.
When the footage of the woman’s death appeared in the media, Health Minister Khawaja Salman Rafique along with the secretary visited the Jinnah Hospital and ordered an inquiry into the incident.
He blamed the explosive growth in population for the overcrowding at hospitals. “All government-run hospital have a policy of no refusal so the hospital administrator decided to treat the patient on the floor,” he added.
The specialised healthcare secretary has constituted an investigation committee.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2017.