KARACHI: The Sindh High Court ordered all government and private hospitals on Wednesday to open their out-patient departments (OPDs) and emergency wards.
A two-member bench, comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Yousuf Ali Sayeed, issued the order over a plea complaining of the unavailability of medical facilities to patients suffering from ailments other than Covid-19. Most hospitals have restricted their operations amid the pandemic.
While the petitioner's counsel cited the example of a policeman, who died on Tuesday due to the unavailability of treatment, the respondents' counsel maintained that OPDs at private hospitals were functioning as usual.
However, in rebuttal, the petitioner's counsel stated that hospital administrations made it mandatory for patients to get tested for the coronavirus before attending them. "And many heart patients die due to the delay in the release of test reports," he lamented.
How would things work if hospital administrations continue to behave like this, remarked Justice Mazhar, adding that a large, low-income segment of society relied on government hospitals for healthcare.
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"Do patients [really] need to get [themselves] screened for the coronavirus before visiting a hospital?" he commented. "What is Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) executive director Seemin Jamali doing? Doesn't she want to run the hospital?"
Expressing annoyance over non-coronavirus patients being turned away by hospitals, the court ordered all healthcare facilities to open their OPDs and emergency wards with immediate effect and directed relevant authorities to take action against facilities that failed to comply with this order.
Besides, it summoned the Sindh Health Care Commission chief executive officer and sought written replies from the administrations of JPMC, South City Hospital and Dr Ziauddin Hospital, among other healthcare facilities.
Seeking a detailed report on the matter from next hearing, the court adjourned the hearing until May 19.
Data theft on the dark web
The bench also issued notices to the Ministry of Interior Affairs, National Database and Regulatory Authority's (NADRA) information technology secretary and other relevant authorities in a plea pertaining to the alleged sale of the sensitive data of 115 million Pakistanis on the dark web.
According to the plea filed by Tariq Mansoor, the information of Pakistani citizens had been uploaded on the dark web on April 10, to be sold for Rs350 million.
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The stolen data included the national identity card numbers of various mobile network subscribers, their contact numbers and their addresses, the plea states, adding that NADRA deputy chairperson at the time was removed from his position after reports of the alleged data theft surfaced.
The petitioner claimed at the hearing that the issued was also raised before the Senate's standing committee but the authorities had been trying to sweep it under the carpet.
The parties failed to submit replies on the plea, despite the court issuing legal notices to them earlier.
In this regard, the counsel for the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority requested the court for an extension to submit the reply.
Irked by the request, Justice Mazhar remarked, "The theft of the sensitive data of millions of Pakistanis is a very serious matter. What are relevant authorities doing to prevent data theft?"
The court issued notices to the parties, seeking detailed replies over the plea on May 29.