HYDERABAD: In yet another order pertaining to improving the standard of services and facilities at public hospitals, the Sindh High Court has asked the Sindh government to conduct public hearings in the hospitals across the province.
The bench, comprising Justice Salahuddin Panhwar and Justice Fahim Ahmed Siddiqi, directed the Sindh chief secretary to form district-level committees to undertake this task.
"... this court takes judicial notice and directs Sindh chief secretary that he shall constitute [the] committees on district-level in all of Sindh," the order reads. "... they [the committees] shall hold open katchehris [public hearings] ... and visit the hospitals after issuing notices to the public through wide publications."
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Each committee will be headed by the deputy commissioner of the district. It will include representatives of the local district bar association and reputable public servants of at least BPS-18 grade.
The Hyderabad-circuit bench gave four weeks to the Sindh chief secretary for constituting these committees. According to the order, the committees will hear public complaints, assess quality of health services being provided at hospitals and submit recommendations to the provincial government.
The government will have to implement the recommendations within three months. The order came in a petition filed by Muhammad Yaqoob, a resident of Umerkot district, complaining about a dearth of health facilities in taluka hospital Pithoro.
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Yaqoob claimed that though the status of rural health centre (RHC) Pithoro was elevated to taluka hospital two years ago, the facility still offered services that of a RHC.
The taluka hospital's medical superintendent (MS), Dr Muhammad Masood Panhwar, while acknowledging the complaints of the petitioner, claimed that he has been writing to the health authorities time and again to address these problems. He told the court that between 600 and 700 patients visit the hospital's outpatient department (OPD) daily.
The MS complained that the residential quarters of doctors in the hospital are occupied by a civil judge, an assistant commissioner, a revenue mukhtiarkar and a police officer. The judges ordered the handover of these quarters to the doctors within 15 days.
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During the earlier hearing, SHC ordered district and sessions judge Umerkot to submit a report about the hospital's condition. The report pointed out that against nine doctors posted at the hospital, only two were present during the surprise judicial visit.
The hospital dentist, Dr Bahar Khan Baglani, attended the hospital only twice a week and the physician, Dr Narendra Kumar, only on weekends. Two doctors, Dr Chetan Kumar and Dr Saba Sartaj, have not attended to their duties for a long time.
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The report also identified very squalid conditions, unfiltered drinking water and unavailability of space for a patient's attendants, besides shortage of staff and equipment at the hospital.
The bench ordered the health secretary to fill the vacancies in Pithoro within 15 days and increase the hospital's budget commensurate with the number of patients who visit the OPD daily.
The court issued a contempt notice to Umerkot District Health Officer Dr Karmoon for his absence and asked the health department to initiate a departmental inquiry against him for negligence of his responsibilities. The hearing will resume on September 11.
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