In the absence of the Sindh Healthcare Commission bill that gives a neutral platform for patients and doctors to register their complaints, the trust deficit between the two continues to widen.
During cases of alleged medical negligence, it is easier for the guilty party to escape justice and lay the blame on the other. "It is a consequence of the absence of a proper platform where a patient or a doctor can lodge a complaint and seek justice," said Dr Qaisar Sajjad, a treasurer of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) central. "It is the right of a patient to a lodge a complaint but this isn't done," he said.
The healthcare commission bill has been passed but it has yet to be implemented. "We have been crying for a long time to implement the bill as rights of patients and doctors can be ensured," he said. After the implementation of the act, the commission of neutral persons can be formed that will address such issues without taking any sides.
Liaquat National case
The recent death of a patient at Liaquat National Hospital (LNH) has created fear among doctors. The lack of a neutral investigating body has also forced upset patients and their relatives to resort to social media to highlight their grievances.
On June 21, Shaista died at LNH allegedly due to the negligence of a consultant gynaecologist, Dr Shahnaz Hussaini. "It wasn't a normal case but the doctors took no serious efforts to save her life," claimed the husband, Omarul Islam.
Islam recalled that he brought Shaista to the hospital at around 10:30am. "I repeatedly called the consultant but she did not respond," he said, adding that it was too late by the time the doctors present at the hospital called Dr Hussaini.
"After the delivery, I was told that my wife was in a serious condition," he said. "Half an hour later, I was told that she is no more." Islam's new born baby boy was also unwell and had to be put on ventilator.
On June 25, Islam lodged a complaint with the hospital management claiming that the consultant and other doctors were equally responsible for the negligence that took away his wife's life. He told The Express Tribune that the management assured him that the investigation report will be shared within 72 hours.
"They constituted the committee after 15 days," he said, adding that they handed over a four-line report to him on July 8. "I am not satisfied with the report and will raise the issue on another platform."
For their part, the hospital management insisted that Shaista's death did not result from medical negligence. "It was a rare complication," said Anjum Rizvi, a senior public relations manager at LNH. All possible measures were taken to provide medical facilities to the deceased, he said. "No hospital and practicing doctor will deliberately kill a patient," he added. "We are ready to cooperate with the family at any level if they are not satisfied with the medical report."
LNH had formed a five-member committee, comprising Dr Pervaiz Ashraf, Dr Nighat Abbas, Dr SM Nadeem, Dr Nadeem Khurshidi and Dr Zehra Naqvi to further investigate the case.
Social media justice
Meanwhile, the grieving husband posted a status on Facebook in which he narrated his ordeal. His family members shared photos of Shaista and their other children. They also shared photos of Dr Hussaini. A large number of people started demanding the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council revoke the doctor's licence.
The message going viral on social media has created fear among a large number of doctors, who believe that the doctor should not be put to trial unless proper investigation is carried out. In fact, PMA's Dr Sajjad feared that the use of social media to name and shame doctors will lead to a time when doctors and reputable hospitals will refuse to take in patients that face serious complications.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2015.