Eight children died at a government hospital in Sahiwal district of Punjab last Sunday. The cause of death – of at least three of them – was strange. It was not malnutrition, nor was it any fatal fever or any other life-threatening condition that claimed the little lives. The cause of death was stoppage of air conditioners in the children’s ward. Sahiwal sizzled at 46 degrees centigrade that day – enough for our already vulnerable AC systems in official buildings to break down – but nobody realised its possible effects on patients, especially the tender souls. There was no backup plan even though there was enough awareness of the deadly effects of heatwaves. It was deeply painful to see a woman, on television, standing next to a hospital bed and pumping oxygen into an infant, most probably her child, manually – through a balloon-like kit – in a bid to beat suffocation that was gradually building inside the children’s ward at the hospital in the wake of the AC failure.
News of deaths at hospitals from peculiar causes have been coming quite consistently in recent days. Be it the death of the nine-month-old Nashwa due to the overdose of a drug at a Karachi hospital; the spread of HIV and AIDS in interior parts of Sindh due to reuse of disposable syringes; or the deaths from non-working ACs in Sahiwal, what’s common in all the cases is the sheer neglect of care for human life at our hospitals and clinics. That the health of people is taken for granted by our medics is quite evident from the above cases.
As usual, the chief minister of the province has constituted a special committee to ‘thoroughly’ investigate the matter and submit a report ‘at the earliest’. Many such committees have been constituted in the past, but not to a bit of improvement in the healthcare system. Our healthcare system needs to be given serious attention. It needs to be overhauled completely, with proper allocation of funds.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2019.