Another doctor succumbs to coronavirus in Karachi

Health dept denies Dr Furqanul Haq passed away due to unavailability of ventilators


Sameer Mandhro May 04, 2020
Health dept denies Dr Furqanul Haq passed away due to unavailability of ventilators. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: Another doctor passed away due to the coronavirus in Karachi on Sunday evening, a few days after being diagnosed with the deadly disease.

Dr Furqanul Haq, a retired practitioner at the Karachi Institute of Heart Diseases, is the third doctor in the city to succumb to the virus, while his wife has also contracted the disease. He had isolated himself at his residence after testing positive for Covd-19.

Though reports circulated that he had died due to the unavailability of ventilators in Pakistan’s largest city, raising questions about the condition of the city’s health sector and its capacity, the Sindh health department denied this after initiating an inquiry into the matter.

According to health department officials, the Sindh Rescue and Medical Services (SRMS) received an emergency call from Dr Haq’s family at 9:54am on Sunday morning. The ambulance driver, told to shift the patient to Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT), arrived at the doctor’s residence at 10:02am, according to official records.

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Health department spokesperson Meeran Yousuf told The Express Tribune that the ambulance transported him to two different hospitals, before taking him back to his residence at 1:17pm on his request.

The records documenting Dr Haq’s movements and his conversation with the ambulance driver are being investigated.

“Nobody from any hospital was at fault,” claimed Yousuf, denying reports that the deceased had been refused treatment due to a shortage of ventilators in the city. She further maintained that no hospital, including SIUT, the Indus Hospital or Dow University Hospital’s (DUH) Ojha campus, had refused to admit him.

Sharing details about the ventilators available in the city’s government and private hospitals, Yousuf said 45 ventilators were currently free for patients.

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Sources told The Express Tribune that Dr Haq had spoken to a friend working at SIUT to be admitted there. However, they added, when he arrived at the hospital, the friend was not there and so he decided to return home. Later, his wife took him to a private hospital where he used to work, but he was not admitted there.

According to official records, meanwhile, all 12 intensive care units at the Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Accident Emergency and Trauma Centre were vacant, as well as six beds at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Hospital, eight beds at Lyari General Hospital and six beds at Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi.

“The ambulance driver suggested other hospitals that he could transport Dr Haq too, but the doctor refused,” explained Yousuf.

Separately, a DUH spokesperson told The Express Tribune that the hospital had arranged for a ventilator for the deceased, but he had passed away before he could arrive at the hospital’s Ojha campus. “The hospital management had been informed about his condition,” he said.

Meanwhile, a senior SRMS official told The Express Tribune that the ambulance staff could not act against the patient’s wishes. “Our staff member was following the instructions of the late doctor,” he asserted.

The health department has initiated a probe into the matter, obtaining CCTV footage from the hospitals where Dr Haq was taken in the ambulance.

In a recording of a telephonic conversation, Dr Haq’s niece, posted at the Indus Hospital, attempted to convince the deceased to go to a hospital after he began experiencing shortness of breath. However, Dr Haq can be heard refusing to do so, telling her that the neighbours would create problems for his family if they saw him being shifted from the house.

In another recorded conversation, Dr Haq, with laboured breathing, can be heard urging a friend to use connections to get him admitted to the Indus Hospital, adding that the ambulance driver told him he could not move him there without confirmation of space. “They [the hospitals] are all full,” he stated.

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