PESHAWAR: It took only 15 to 20 minutes to turn worshipers into victims, mothers into mourners and a city into an even bigger necropolis. And as frantic citizens turned to the state for support, the state’s infrastructure buckled, improvising as the day went on.
Between panicked loved ones, police, onlookers, blood donors and the media, 400 to 500 people had gathered at Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC), a stone’s throw from Imamia Mosque.
Built in the 90s, HMC is rather small—with an even more diminutive emergency unit—not built to handle the aftermath of a small bomb blast. On Friday afternoon, the HMC administration had to deal with 44 injured and 20 dead. A state of emergency was declared at the hospital.
One man show
HMC’s casualty is designed to be run by a single doctor-cum-record keeper. Whereas most hospitals have specialist doctors and surgeons on a rota, HMC was calling in whomever was free to come in.
Unlike Lady Reading Hospital which is built to handle over 400 in an emergency, HMC was struggling to place the 19 bodies brought initially.
Instead of a morgue, the hospital placed 16 of the Imamia Mosque attack victims in the deserted psychiatry ward. Without enough beds, even in death the hospital resorted to ‘doubling’—a common practice at public hospitals where two patients are treated on one bed.
“There are too many dead and the ward is a small one with a limited number of beds,” a nurse told The Express Tribune. She added they handed over one of the bodies to relatives while the remaining 15 were still at the psychiatry unit till the filing of this report. All 16 of these victims had been identified.
Three more bodies of victims had been placed in the emergency, leaving little room for the injured. After initial inspection, patients were being sent to specific wards for treatment.
Dr Omar, a child specialist, who had been called in to help during the emergency, said HMC had received dozens of injured and all of them were shifted to the wards. The critically injured ones were shifted to other hospitals; at least three patients were referred to LRH.
Dignity in death
Talking to The Express Tribune, Arif, a relative of a deceased, said “It is unfortunate the administration or the government have not even provided coffins for the bodies.”
He said, “In LRH, they at least put the bodies in a coffin and then hand over the remains to the families; here the administration is doing nothing at all.”
Arif added, “I think the government has not provided HMC with the facilities to deal with a minor emergency, let alone blasts like this one.”
As the chaos snowballed, more people came in, hunting for their loved ones, hoping to not find them. Some left the hospital with bodies of their relatives, without any checks.
“They should have put up a list of the deceased and names should be displayed next to the beds to assist relatives who came looking,” said one of the bereaved, pointing out a basic hospital SOP which was missing.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2015.