Apartheid in government hospitals

Published: February 20, 2012

LAHORE: This is with reference to an article in your newspaper of February 18 on a strike by the Young Doctors’ Association in Punjab. I was astonished to read that thousands of poor patients were being deprived of their legitimate right to receive medical treatment after the Association called a strike following the provincial government’s action against some doctors of the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC). The PML-N government acted after the disbursement of tainted medicines to heart patients took over a hundred lives. I also know that some of the doctors who were on strike at government-run hospitals were offering their services to patients in their private clinics. Clearly, when money is involved, ethics go out of the window.

Anyone who has some knowledge of the way government hospitals are run will know that there are four distinct categories of patients. The first are private patients who pay for their treatment and are immediately attended to by hospital staff, The second category comprises of those who can at least purchase their own medicines. The third are patients who are usually from poor financial backgrounds and their treatment is paid for by Zakat funds. And the fourth category consists of government employees who are given medicines by the hospitals free of charge. As one would expect, the categories described just now are in descending order of priority of treatment given by the attending doctors. Suffice it to say, the tainted medicines fiasco could have been avoided had the government spent some money on training pharmacists in government hospitals and also invested in setting up quality drug-testing laboratories.

Farooq Bashir Butt

Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2012.

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