The allied hospitals of Rawalpindi and other public health institutes in the city lack dermatologists and do not have facilities to house patients suffering from serious skin diseases. The situation is expected to worsen in the rainy season, The Express Tribune has learnt.
There is only one small dermatology department in Benazir Bhutto Hospital (BBH), while Holy Family Hospital (HFH) and District Headquarter Hospital (DHQ) have none, and patients with skin diseases end up being treated by medical specialists. In addition, the lack of facilities to house patients with serious skin diseases at BBH has resulted in many deaths in the past.
Khalida Bibi, 70, came to BBH suffering from pemphigus vulgaris, an autoimmune disorder that involves blistering and sores on the skin surface. Due to the absence of an inpatient department for skin diseases, she was admitted to the medicine ward, where, due to her already weak immune system, she contracted tuberculosis (TB) and died, according to hospital sources.
In a similar incident, Sakina Bibi, 56, lost her life due to “mixed” treatment from a physician and a non-qualified dermatologist, sources added.
Talking to The Express Tribune, BBH Medical Registrar Dr Muhammad Haroon admitted that in the past, many patients with serious skin diseases died after contracting communicable diseases from other patients, as a separate inpatient department for those with skin diseases is lacking. He said such patients need isolated rooms and a hygienic environment, which are not available at the hospital.
Dr Haroon said that due to the hot and humid weather, people are more vulnerable to skin problems ranging from sunburns, premature aging of skin, dermal dehydration and skin infections. At BBH, he said the number of patients with skin diseases increased with the advent of summer and the hospital is receiving 90 to 100 such patients every day.
HFH Medical Registrar Dr Qaiser Aziz said that despite being the largest public hospital in the city, it does not have a dermatology department or a dermatologist. He said that if the hospital receives patients suffering from skin disorders, they are referred to BBH.
Dr Muhammad Naqvi, a senior dermatologist, said that due to a shortage of skin specialists, many people resort to self-medication, or visit hakims. Speaking about the rise in skin problems among people, he identified scabies as one of the most common skin infections during summers, which appears as a rash between the fingers, armpits, legs and other areas where sweat may accumulate, causing intractable itching on the infected area. “Though the treatment for the infection is fairly simple,” said Dr Naqvi, “Due to the lack of knowledge, doctors treat it with ineffective medicine, which creates complications”.
He said that fungal infections of the mouth, hands, nails and feet are also quite common in patients with diabetes, and need to be treated with great care.
He suggested people apply sunscreen before going into the sun and also use lip balms that contain sunscreen to avoid sunburnt lips.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2011.