A human rights watchdog has drawn Chief Minister (CM) Mehdi Shah’s attention towards the scarce cardiac care facilities in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), saying the death rate among cardiac patients has reached a dangerous level in recent years.
“Of every five people aged 50 or above in G-B, at least one is a heart patient, which is highly alarming,” chief coordinator of the International Human Rights Observer’s G-B chapter, Muhammad Farooq, claimed in a recent letter written to the CM.
“There are many reasons behind the startling statistics but a lack of cardiac facilities in the region is the biggest one,” said Farooq, putting the number of deaths in the region from cardiac arrest at 12 per day.
With G-B’s population having crossed 1.8 million, not a single cardiology unit exists in the whole region.
“What I have written is based on facts and discloses a sheer violation of human rights,” Farooq told The Express Tribune on Sunday.
“There is no angioplasty, angiography or bypass facility in G-B and that’s why specialised doctors prefer not to work here,” he said.
In the letter, the watchdog further states that the hospitals – both private and public – are not only devoid of essential equipment but also lack qualified doctors.
As a result, heart patients are treated by medical specialists – which may qualify as a violation of human rights.
Farooq also mentions that the 25-hour-long tedious journey via Karakoram Highway between G-B and Islamabad, along with the financial expenses, sometimes end up killing a heart patient. Similarly, the lack of flights to G-B and exorbitant airfare take the option out of the poor’s reach.
The construction of a proposed cardiology centre in G-B has been delayed due to a sectarian dispute over its location since the past decade.
According to a statement made by G-B Minister for Health Gulbar Khan in the G-B Assembly in October last year, the delay was caused as leaders of both the Shia and Sunni communities wanted it to be constructed in their areas.
“Jutial area of the city (Gilgit) is the best place for the centre and the government must start its construction on a war footing,” suggests Farooq.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2014.
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