The trend of attacking medical staff or ransacking hospital equipment in reaction to doctors' perceived inattention or misbehaviour needs to be checked urgently. Wednesday's ugly incident in Toba Tek Singh is the latest in a string of such unsavoury events. Three brothers, injured in a dispute, were brought to the local DHQ hospital for treatment. However, the patients' attendants felt the doctors were not properly tending to the injured men and decided to stage a protest on the main road. The police arrived and baton-charged the protesters, while a student was injured in the melee. The demonstrators proceeded to the hospital and smashed the windows of the emergency section and the doctors' offices. Recently, a mob attack on Muzaffargarh's DHQ hospital — reportedly led by MNA Jamshed Dasti — made headlines. The circumstances were similar as the protesters claimed a patient died due to the alleged negligence of doctors. Dozens of doctors and nurses were beaten while hospital property and medical equipment was also damaged.
While such violent means of protest cannot be justified under any circumstances, the issue of negligence by medical staff is a genuine one in Pakistan. The attitude of staff and the standard of service in hospitals is below average, particularly in government institutions. The situation is worse in smaller towns and rural areas.
Hence, when patients are brought in the slightest mishap is likely to prove incendiary for already emotional attendants. The situation requires care and sensitivity on the part of doctors and hospital staff. There must also be a proper mechanism in place where the complaints of patients and their attendants can be heard and action taken as per the law against those professionals found guilty of negligence. People should refrain from taking the law into their own hands.