ISLAMABAD: Poor patients coming from far off areas to seek treatment at the largest tertiary care hospital in the federal capital have been forced to seek help at private clinics and laboratories because a key scanning equipment has been out of order for the past two weeks.
The Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) has been out of order for the past two weeks, causing problems for patients streaming in from the neighbouring city of Rawalpindi, adjoining districts, and even from far off places such as Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan.
But with machines out of order, even the doctors at the hospital recommend patients to get the necessary scans and tests done from private labs.
The Polyclinic hospital, the other large government-run health facility in the capital, does not have an MRI machine altogether owing to shortage of space.
The National Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine (NIRM) has a machine but the hospital is dedicated for the differently-abled.
Zahoor Khan, a concerned parent whose son was recommended by consultants to get an MRI scan, said that he had been visiting the hospital since September 13 but has been unsuccessful in getting a scan for his son.
Zahoor said that every day when he visits, the hospital staff tell him either to wait or get the scan done from a private facility.
“Being a government servant, I can go to a private laboratory and have the test cost reimbursed later, but what about the patients who are either critical or poor who cannot afford the tests,” he asked.
“It is a hassle to transport a patient, who is admitted in the hospital, to a private facility or another hospital just for a test,” Zahoor added.
“My son, who fell and hurt his, has been unable to go to school since he is waiting for the machine to be repaired.”
Pims Deputy Director Dr Aziz Bangash, who is also looking after administrative affairs of the radiology department at the hospital, conceded that it takes time to rectify technical faults.
“The fault has been nearly rectified,” he said.
Hospital officials stated that the main issue was that a large number of patients visit the hospital every day which puts a tremendous amount of strain on the facilities at the hospital. This load, they claimed, cause machines to break down frequently and interrupt service delivery.
“We need to revive the referral system which was the main aim when this institute was established nearly four decades ago,” said Dr Amir Maqbool who heads the outpatient department.
“But people from all provinces come to the hospital without being referred by the relevant hospitals,” he said.
Despite criticism from all corners of the society, the institute has always met expectation during all major national and local disasters, he maintained.
The key to success, Dr Maqbool said, will be the role played by the private sector. In this regard, he suggested that the new task force on health constituted by the government take the capital’s business and philanthropic community on board especially the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), the stock exchange and other philanthropy organizations.
The Pims OPD chief pointed out that the federal government was spending a mere Rs8 billion on its four hospitals every year, noting that this needs to be managed more effectively. Moreover, he said that the medical teaching institutions in the country need to attract more foreign undergraduate and postgraduate students to generate additional resources to ease the financial burden on the federal government.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 28th, 2018.