In the deadly heatwave that gripped the metropolis last week, the doctors at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) were swamped. Barely was one body removed that another heatstroke patient would arrive to take its place in the poorly maintained medical wards.
The volunteers who poured in to provide supplies and assistance could not help but notice the appalling condition of the government hospital's wards. And now, thanks to them, medical wards five, six and seven, which once smelt of decay, are receiving a much-needed facelift.
When lawyer Tahera Hasan, who heads the Imkaan Welfare Organisation, visited Ward 5, she found filthy mattresses, floors carpeted with trash and layers of dirt covering everything. So, starting June 26, the ward was adopted by the organisation, which primarily works to help abandoned children, for a month.
Hasan had initially decided to fund private janitorial services in the ward for a month, writing an application to get permission from the in-charge. Once the organisation started helping out, however, scores of other problems within the ward became visible.
Promoted on social media under #thewardfiveproject, the ward is witnessing repairs and renovations - the fans and other electrical fittings are being fixed and the windows are being netted to keep out the stray cats that stroll around the beds.
Meanwhile, the volunteers and students who have joined hands with Imkaan are making sure that the patients receive the help they need. While there are barely any heatstroke victims coming in anymore, the ward is now housing patients with diabetes, hepatitis and brain haemorrhages as well as drug addicts.
"In the last 10 days, I have seen over 50 people die in front of my eyes. The hospital needs a serious overhaul," says volunteer Anas Mallick. "Where are the funds that have been allocated? Nobody cares to give any answers." Heading to another department to collect the scans of a patient, he explains that the volunteers were there because the ward needed them.
Six standing air-conditioners, each costing Rs85,000, have been set up in the ward, while nine new beds with fresh oxygen supplies have also been placed there. The mattresses are being replaced too, the high dependency unit is being painted and the ward is being provided with pedestal fans.
Disappointed with the staff's apathy, the volunteers also decided to provide their own private janitors to scrub the grimy floors. "Lack of hygiene leads to secondary infections, so we are making sure this place remains clean," says Hasan.
Meanwhile, in wards Six and Seven, activist Jibran Nasir has taken over. "The medical wards of the country's biggest hospital don't have any facilities," he says, adding that he posted videos on social media to show people the state they were in.
While Nasir's work in the wards is set to last till the end of Ramazan, he is trying to come up with cost-effective measures to give long-term benefits to the patients. Providing rental air-conditioners on a temporary basis, he claims that they plan to install electric coolers and set up benches in order to give people a place to sit. He has also organised janitorial services for both of these medical wards as well as the emergency ward.
However, JPMC director Dr Anisuddin Bhatti does not seem very pleased with the work being done by the volunteers. "These people are maligning us," he says, refusing to acknowledge their efforts. "They are not providing any janitorial services or facilities." While he admits that they did arrange air conditioners for the heatstroke victims, he claims that these have now been taken back.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2015.
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