Last week, it took one single rat to shut down an entire operation department at a hospital in Nottinghamshire, UK. Understanding that rats can spread salmonella, a form of food poisoning and that they can also carry Weil’s disease, which is a fatal infection caused by animal to human transmission, the hospital immediately cancelled 40 operations. After pest control inspected other rooms, the department was reopened. According to the BBC report of November 6, the department director even issued an apology to patients. The story provides a stark contrast to Pakistan’s own hospitals, both government and private, including those in the most affluent of areas.
Whether it is a cockroach crawling on the walls of a private room or the need for honest accounting when charging patient bills, our hospitals are in desperate need of internal reviews. Rats and cockroaches are commonly found in many of Pakistan’s hospitals without any staff member paying heed to their potential dangers of spreading disease. Cockroaches can spread salmonella and some online research alerts one towards their capability to also harbour the polio virus. Common sense informs us that these scavengers should not be seen anywhere near our healthcare facilities, as they are already replete with sick people who have compromised immune systems.
There are many basic necessities lacking in our hospitals. Some private hospitals continue to mint money performing minimal hygiene duties, while government hospitals neglect maintenance duties altogether. The government agencies concerned need to take action with regard to improving Pakistan’s hospitals. Likewise, directors of private hospitals should take more proactive approaches in running their hospitals by visiting the facilities regularly and making sure everything is up to par. These basic measures, which are a regular part of any functioning health system, such as in the UK, must be put in place to alleviate hygiene problems, at the least.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2012.