KARACHI: The Sindh government hospital in Rehri Goth has remained non-functional despite its near completion status since more than six years now.
The foundation stone of the 36-bedded hospital on the coastal belt was laid in 2005 by the then MPA Mahmood Alam Jamot and Planning and Development Minister Shoaib Bukhari at a cost of Rs80 million. However, work for the project has been halted since 2011 as funds have yet to be released by the government.
The structure of the ‘ghost hospital’ stands tall but there are neither patients nor staff to provide health care to the patients. Instead, the Union Council (UC) chairperson has made his permanent abode in a few rooms of the hospital building.
The hospital aimed to cater to a population of around 200,000 of Rehri Goth, Bhains Colony, Bakhtawar Goth, Ilyas Goth, Haji Dawood Goth, Chasma Goth, Lalabad, Ali Brohi Goth, Sherpao Colony and Lath Basti.
“The health conditions of the residents living in the coastal belt are the worst but no one from the Sindh government is willing to address them,” said Kamal Shah, the spokesperson of an organisation, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), working to safeguard the rights of fishermen.
“The patients have to go to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre for any health emergency or in the of case of an outbreak of some disease in the area such as skin, gastrointestinal or viral diseases,” said Shah, emphasising that such diseases were common in these areas due to lack of potable water, poor hygiene and sanitation conditions and frequent exposure of the fishermen to the sun.
“The furniture, beds and machines that were bought for the hospital in 2011 are now covered in dust and are being eaten by termites but the government continues to take no interest to make the hospital operational in the centuries old coastal neighbourhood of Karachi,” Rehri UC councillor Nawaz Dablo told The Express Tribune.
“A number of mothers and their newborns die every year since they are unable to reach the hospital in time,” said Dablo, adding that if the hospital becomes operational, it will certainly provide great relief to the disease-stricken fishermen community.
When approached by The Express Tribune, Rehri UC Chairman Sultan Ahmed maintained that if the hospital is made functional then the residents of the area won’t have to travel long distances for access to medical facilities.
“We have been protecting the hospital from drug peddlers by setting up a temporary office of the UC chairman in a few of the rooms,” claimed Ahmed, adding that they have been maintaining the complex with whatever limited resources are available to them.
According to the current MPA of the area, Shafi Jamot, lack of political will is the reason behind the non-functionality of the hospital. Shafi shared that he had written several letters but the government seemed least interested to complete the hospital and make it functional.
A former health director, Dr Abdul Wahid Panhwar, told The Express Tribune that the facility was contracted out to a private partner, Health and Nutrition Development Society (HANDS), in 2015, saying that that was the reason for the hospital not being made operational since so many years by the health department.
According to the director of the health department’s public-private partnership and the health official responsible for handing over facilities to private contractors, Dr Ahsanullah Khan, the facility was handed over to HANDS in July last year and the funds were transferred in November last year to make it operational.
However, Khan said the facility will be made operational within a few months.
Meanwhile, HANDS founder Dr Ghaffar Billo told The Express Tribune that bureaucratic hitches and a lack of complete funds transfer was the reason for delay in making the hospital functional. He said only Rs30 million of the total Rs440 million was transferred by the Sindh government to HANDS.