Miles away: In rural areas, hospitals unable to treat cardiac patients

People in remote towns have to travel great distances in emergencies

Ali Ousat February 07, 2017

LAHORE: When 25-year-old Amanullah suffered from severe chest pain early morning in his hometown of Okara, the family had little choice but to rush him to the alien surroundings of Lahore for emergency treatment.

As they had wandered into unchartered territory, the relatives had no idea which medical facility would provide the necessary care. What ensued was a perilous journey from pillar to post as there was no medical facility in their hometown that could provide the necessary healthcare.

His attendants somehow managed to locate the Mayo Hospital where he was at the general emergency ward. It was suggested that he be rushed to the Punjab Institute of Cardiology at the earliest as he was initially diagnosed with a severe stroke.

However, Amanullah’s ordeal did not end there as his family members, farmers by profession, were in alien surroundings and there was also a language barrier. In fact, they heard PIC’s name for the first time in their lives and ended up at the Services Hospital emergency ward instead.

The doctors at the Services Hospital told Amanullah’s father Muhammad Sharif that the patient could only be looked after at PIC.

“First of all they never established a medical facility at my hometown in Okara. We roamed all around Lahore and all the health care institutes refused us,” he complained. “God knows where my son can get treated. He is too young to suffer like this.”

After going from pillar to post, they finally reached PIC where there was an extraordinary number of patients waiting in line for a checkup. “We somehow managed to make contact with the medics who ultimately admitted my son,” the father stated.

“The journey of Amanullah and his family has exposed the decentralised as patients from all around Punjab are coming to Lahore. Even with all the facilities, PIC is not able to cater to all patients,” commented Dr Mohsin, a medical officer at the cardiology institute. He also pointed out that major hospitals such as Mayo, Services and Jinnah lacked the facility to treat chest patients. He believed this left several question marks over the government’s resolve to provide basic health care at patients’ doorsteps.

Earlier, the health department announced the inauguration of a cardio emergency ward at Mayo Hospital in a matter of days. However, the ward is yet to see the light of day.

“Although the health minister and hospital administration assured opening of the cardiac emergency, it still is not functioning,” commented Dr Salman Kazmi, a YDA office bearer at Mayo hospital. “They will have to open cardio emergency wards at hospitals as these institutions deal with hundreds of patients daily.”

Talking to The Express Tribune, a health department spokesman said the government is taking serious steps to revamp districts and tehsil headquarter hospitals. He vowed that the issue would be solved.

He stated Secretary for Primary and Secondary Healthcare Ali Jan Khan also ordered a meeting in which all districts would be told to expedite development projects and ensure optimal utilisation of resources.

Chairing a monthly of health chief executive officers (H) at the Directorate General Health Services, the secretary said revamping 40 hospitals in Punjab would be complete in the current fiscal year. He added the project would ultimately expand to all hospitals of the province.

“Maybe such steps can ease Amanullah’s plight in future,” concluded the patient’s father when hearing of the developments.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2017.