Capital’s hospitals run full capacity amid ventilators shortage

National Health Ministry spokesperson denies shortfall claims despite hospital reports, says all is well

RAZIA KHAN June 04, 2020
A Reuters image showing ventilators.

ISLAMABAD: While the federal government, citing economic slump, considers lifting nationwide lockdown, the surge in Covid-19 cases has fast rendered hospitals across the federal capital out of capacity for coronavirus patients.

According to insider reports, despite the availability of 31 empty beds, the lack of ventilators has forced doctors at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) in Islamabad, to refer incoming patients to private medical facilities as cases swell. “The government has not provided us with a single new ventilator and we are running at full capacity right now; with no resources for more,” informed a PIMS source on conditions of anonymity.

Whereas, contrary to hospital’s claims, the health ministry spokesperson believes that the situation is well under control and there is nothing to worry about. “Not a single Covid-19 patient has gone without access to a ventilator so far. That being said, meetings are being held by the special assistant on a daily basis to discuss current and contingency plans nonetheless. The rapid surge in coronavirus cases may have exposed the health system, but the situation is still under control,” the spokesperson asserted.

As per PIMS sources, the hospital has been treating 44 patients on 75 beds in the medical facility’s isolation ward. Currently, the hospital has access to a total of 11 ventilators, out of which eight have been borrowed from the surgical ward while the remaining three were recently procured from the hospital’s cardiac department. “Given this shortfall of ventilators, where our doctors have no choice but to refer new patients to other private hospitals, the special Assistant for Health Zafar Mirza, despite being aware of the issues has remained unable to provide us with the required equipment and facilities,” the source revealed.

In a recent meeting with PIMS officials on the issue of lack of ventilators, Mirza had suggested the hospital management to close its cardiac ward and handover all its ventilator to meet the deficit in the isolation centre. PIMS administration however, deeming the plan impracticable, rejected the suggestion and was once again left with no plausible solution to look forward to.

According to officials at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, more than 2,100 patients have so far contracted the virus, while over 44 have lost their life to it in the federal capital. Similarly, Islamabad’s second-largest government hospital polyclinic is reportedly equipped with only seven ventilators and a mere 22-bed isolation ward, in face of a pandemic showing no signs of slowing down. Moreover, contrary to the government’s claims, sources reveal that not a single new ventilator has been issued to the polyclinic hospital thus far. Whereas, in response to the concern, the National Health Ministry spokesperson claimed that neither of the two hospitals are in need of more ventilators at the moment. “However, 20 new ventilators are expected to be provided to the federal hospitals in the near future,” he added.

On the other hand, doctors contacted on the matter shared that they expect the hospital to be provided with the required facilities and equipment in the near future, but they have to stay on duty and continue to make the best of their resources in the meanwhile. “We can’t deny the dearth of facilities here, but the entire country is faced with and battling the same potentially deadly virus. In a situation like such, equipping every hospital with facilities is not only the responsibility of the government but also the right of the people,” the doctors expressed, while speaking to The Express Tribune.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2020.

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