Water damage: 300 gastro patients flock to Nishtar Hospital

The epidemic was caused by sewage leaking into the water supply lines.

Express June 20, 2011


Approximately 300 gastroenteritis patients were admitted to Nishtar Hospital in Multan on Sunday morning.

According to health officials, a gastroenteritis outbreak broke out in the Haroonabad village after sewage from the main sewer lines leaked into the drinking water supply of two tehsils in the area. “It was a disaster, everyone fell sick and it didn’t matter if the water was boiled or not because the water was sewer water,” said Haleema, a Chak 42-LG resident.

According to attendants at Nishtar Hospital, there weren’t enough hospital beds to deal with the number of patients. “The gastro patients just kept pouring in all day and eventually we couldn’t house them. We emptied the general and emergency ward but there simply weren’t enough beds,” said a nurse at the hospital Mehmoona.

Attending Dr Farooq Sial said that he had ordered for a tent to be erected outside the hospital to deal with the patients. “We spread bed sheets on the floor and began treating patients outside because their symptoms are severe and they need help,” he said. “It was a horrible sight because hundreds of people were retching and they were all in extreme pain,” said a patient Suleman Jafri.

Nishtar Hospital officials said that they had informed the tehsil administration about the incident. “I have sent a team to look into the matter. The water supply for a couple of tehsils has been compromised and we need to repair the pipes and drain them before people can drink water,” said Haroonabad tehsil municipal administration official Noor Muhammad. “I have arranged for a water tanker from the neighbouring tehsil to provide water to the affected area for the next two days while the damage is being repaired,” he said.

Haroonabad resident Muhammad Kamran said that at first it was hard to tell that the water was infected but now it was obviously sewage. “The water in all the pipes is black and it smells terrible,” he said.

Dr Sial said that he feared the epidemic might get worse. “An infection like this doesn’t go away quickly, nearly all of the patients will need to undergo an antibiotics course and the extreme temperatures do not help with dehydration,” he said.

The relatives of nearly 300 gastro patients said that they were unable to find any place to sit at the hospital. “It is sweltering and we have no shade. We can’t wait inside the hospital because they barely have room for the patients,” said Ameena Biabi, whose 4-year-old daughter fell ill on Saturday evening.

Nishtar Hospital has begun referring some patients to tehsil hospitals, Civil Hospital and other hospitals in neighbouring districts to cope with the increasing number of patients.

Bahawalnagar DCO Asim Iqbal visited the Civil Hospital and issued instructions for the patients to be housed in a separate ward. “The damages to the water pipes are being repaired and the situation should normalise within a day or two,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2011.


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