ISLAMABAD: The doctors have left and there are no incentives, medical or monetary, to lure them back to the Government Mental and General Hospital of Dadar. Once one of the biggest tuberculosis sanatoriums in Asia, the hospital is now a shadow of its former self.
The general hospital has an outpatient department with a capacity of about 50 patients, established during the tenure of former health minister Gustasip Khan. Gustasip told The Express Tribune that the hospital was made to facilitate people’s needs and lessen the burden of the district hospital, as the Basic Health Units in the area were not functional and people had no other option but to travel to the district hospital.
The hospital, first established in 1939 on an area of about 1,600 kanal, was converted to a mental and general hospital with the government decided to open a TB centre in every district. The mental hospital in Dodhial was shifted to Dadar.
But why would anyone want to work at a hospital situated at a 90-minute journey from Abbottabad? Gustasip said the hospital fails to attract doctors due to low pays and lack of facilities and even though doctors working for the health department are supposed to serve wherever they are posted, “they use influence over people who matter to transfer elsewhere”. “The department needs to take a stand on this matter,” he added.
Sources at the hospital said the former Medical Superintendant (MS) spent his nine years of tenure by attending the hospital only once a week. For the rest of the days, he ran a private clinic in another part of the district. But things are looking better ever since Feroz Khan, the new MS, arrived in April. The staff seemed to have heaved a sigh of relief at this appointment and said the current MS is simultaneously carrying the duties of attending patients while administering the general and mental wards. But Feroz himself is not satisfied with what he is managing to do. “I cannot administer [as well as I would like to] because I have to inspect about 70-80 patients daily,” he said.
Iqbal Shah, a hospital employee, said that the allocated funds are exaggerated and the building is in dire need of reconstruction and maintenance as the hospital has withstood three floods and one earthquake. “DG (director general) Health came to visit the hospital, but we did not get anything.”
The doctors’ hostels have been turned into class IV accommodation and the emergency ward is in a deplorable condition.
Head nurse Zahida Iqbal, who has been working at the hospital for the past 27 years, said there isn’t a single female doctor in the hospital. “We have to refer serious gynaecology cases to Balakot,” she said.
The audit officer said the hospital has an annual budget of Rs30 million to cover salaries of 102 employees, medicine and food. The hospital employs just seven sweepers and has no security guards. So the sweepers double as guards. Shahid Wali, a sweeper and a guard in service for the past 35 years, used to get a salary of Rs6,000 until recently, when it was increased to Rs10,000.
The MS said they have written to the Health Minister and the Construction and Works Department about the wing destroyed in the disasters and shortage of doctors but got no response.
He informed The Express Tribune that they had also sent a proposal to ERRA for reconstruction but had gotten no response. Recently some Koreans visited the institute in April and took with them a proposal, which is a ray of hope in an exhausted list.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2011.
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