ISLAMABAD: A woman in her early twenties – eyes filled with fear, fingers clenched in desperation – scurried about from room to room, as if trapped in a maze. But this was no labyrinth.
This was the emergency ward at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences. “My brother had a heart attack this morning and his condition is serious. The hospital management is not cooperating with me,” the woman, Somia Williams, said.
When Williams brought him to the emergency ward on Thursday morning, she was given a piece of paper and asked to get it signed by someone at the outpatient department (OPD). “I went there to get it signed but they said someone in the emergency ward was supposed to sign it,” she said. Overridden with anxiety, she even forgot the name of the person she met in the OPD.
“My brother is lying on a stretcher and waiting for treatment. Will anyone help me, my brother is dying,” she pleaded before bursting into tears. An older woman stood nearby, wiping her tears repeatedly with a shawl. Zubeida Bibi, 30, had come all the way from Attock. She stood next to her uncle, a cancer patient. “In the morning … he started vomiting blood.
We quickly brought him to the emergency ward but doctors did not attend to him,” she said. “After one injection, they asked us to take him back home as there was no space at the hospital,” she explained. Others joined in, venting out their frustration, dissatisfied with the hospital staff and services. In a small room nearby, a number of young doctors were sitting and chatting. This was in stark contrast to the misery outside.
In the wards, each bed was being shared by two patients. A senior doctor, on condition of anonymity, complained about the shortage of staff, beds, stretchers and medical equipment. She complained about the workload: “More than 500 patients come here each day. It is difficult.” During this conversation, a woman walked up to her and protested that there were no stretchers outside the emergency ward. “How am I supposed to bring her (a female relative) inside?” she inquired.
She was told to make her lie on the floor – there were other patients already lying there. Dr Waseem Khawaja, the hospital’s spokesperson, acknowledged to The Express Tribune that there was a shortage of staff and beds in the ward. “There are only 20 or 22 beds … there are five or six senior doctors, helped by many paramedics.
However, this is obviously insufficient when you look at the number of patients that come here,” he said. “Here, the problem is that even patients with mild fever, flu or cough are brought to the emergency ward, which is obviously wrong,” he said.
Patients from the OPD also come to the emergency ward to get early medical treatment because of which it gets overcrowded, he added. “After filtration, it is found that only 10 to 20 per cent of the patients need urgent medical treatment,” Dr Khawaja claimed.
“There is a dire need to create awareness among the public: those with minor health issues should be taken to the OPD or other relevant doctors instead,” he said. Also, the government should establish another hospital in the capital, he demanded.
Addressing the shortage of staff, he said their salaries should be increased and they should be provided opportunities to study and research abroad. Meanwhile, there was a queue of people still waiting for stretchers outside the emergency department - patients and their relatives waited, praying for guidance and help.