Neglected: Lyari General Hospital fights for its life

Published: November 29, 2019

KARACHI: Once a lifesaver for the poor, Lyari’s General Hospital (LGH) is one failure away from losing the battle for its survival. Instead of upgrading existing medical facilities for the residents of Lyari, several units of the hospital were shut down for several days, depriving dozens of patients of treatment.

As a result, patients were left with no choice but to run from pillar to post in search of alternative medical facilities. Gulabi, a citizen of Lyari visiting LGH, said that her daughter-in-law had to suffer because of the closure of the hospital’s operation theatre (OT).

“Two days before her surgery, we were told that the OTs have been temporarily closed due to which we were left in a state of panic and had to rush my daughter-in-law to the [Dr Ruth Pfau] Civil Hospital,” Gulabi claimed. “Since we cannot afford private healthcare, we have to suffer at state-owned facilities.”

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The 500-bed hospital is visited by more than 4,000 patients daily who go there, hoping to receive basic healthcare facilities. Sources said that LGH has a total of five operation theatres, four of which had to be shut down for five days because of the non-availability of anesthesia machines.

“The hospital has a total of eight anesthesia machines, five of which were out of order, therefore, operations could not be carried out,” a hospital staff, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune.

“Patients who were waiting for an operation were either forced to wait helplessly or were sent to the Civil Hospital. More than 50 patients could not be operated because of the five-day closure of the operation theatres,” he added.

According to hospital records, around 30 to 35 gynecological operations are carried out in the hospital every day, while around five patients undergo surgical procedures in the hospital’s two OTs from Monday to Friday every week. Operations are also conducted in the orthopedic unit of the hospital where seven patients undergo operations per week.

“The hospital also has a pediatric surgery unit which has been closed for the past one month,” the hospital employee said. “As a result, pediatric surgeries have also been halted.”

It was also learnt that LGH has only one OT for ophthalmology patients, which functions only twice a week. Every day, around seven to eight patients undergo cataract operations in the theatre. Due to the closure of the OT, operations of dozens of patients were denied treatment.

The surgical intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital has also been shut down while the thalassemia centre could not become functional even after eight years of construction. Similarly, a 25-bed trauma centre within the hospital premises has been in progress for over a decade.

Malfunctioning machines

Sources have revealed that apart from the anesthesia machines, several other types of equipment at the hospital, which are necessary for carrying out some major tests, X-rays and scans, have been out of order for over a month. These include the computed tomography (CT scan) machine, hepatitis testing equipment, endoscopy equipment and apparatus used for examining eye diseases.

The hospital source added that two of the eight dialysis machines in the dialysis unit have not been working for the past one year. Another Lyari citizen visiting the hospital said that there is no arrangement for blood supply if a patient is in need.

“We have to arrange blood ourselves. The ultrasound machine is also only partially working. Patients also suffer because the elevator in the hospital is not functioning and attendants have to carry their patients upstairs,” he said.

Shortage of staffers

Apart from faulty machines, LGH is also suffering from an acute dearth of staffers. Around 487 posts for doctors, paramedical staff and nurses are lying vacant at, whereas the hospital has been operating without an accountant for more than two years.

What’s more, despite receiving a budget of Rs220 million for medicines, the hospital has been supplying substandard medications to patients, that too in limited quantities.

“Patients undergoing treatment at the Nephrology Unit are told to go home in the evening as there are no doctors and nurses to look after them during night shifts,” the hospital source said. “Similarly, the Psychology Unit is closed after 3pm because of a lack of staff.”

Other mismanaged affairs

The source said that the facility has only one ambulance that is in use of the hospital administration instead of facilitating patients. Moreover, for the past one year, the zakat fund collection scheme, meant to financially assist poor patients, has also been suspended.

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On being contacted, the Medical Superintendent and Administrative Head of the Lyari General Hospital Dr Anwar Palari admitted that the OTs were closed for maintenance but upon the protest of patients, they have been reopened on Thursday, November 28.

“We have not only reopened the theatres but we also held a meeting with the provincial health secretary on Thursday where we raised the issue of faulty machines and staff shortage,” he said. “It was decided in the meeting that the hospital will recruit one-to-15 grade employees on vacant posts through NTS as soon as possible.”

He added that due to the non-availability of zakat funds in the hospital for over a year, the recruitment tender had been in the process while the repair of damaged machines is being initiated.

“We have also started the process of procuring new machines to replace the defective ones,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2019.

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