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RAWALPINDI, June 19: All it took to set up an isolation ward at the District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital for measles patients was a visit by District Coordination Officer (DCO) Rashid Mehmood Langrial the other day to the three government-run hospitals in the city.

Over 700 measles patients were treated at the three hospitals during the last six months, majority of whom visited District Headquarters Hospital.

Since the DHQ Hospital did not have an isolation ward, it referred patients to Holy Family Hospital (HFH) and Benazir Bhutto Hospital (BBH).

During his visit to DHQ Hospital on Tuesday evening, Mr Langrial found no separate ward for measles patients.

He immediately brought the situation to the notice of the Punjab health secretary and Rawalpindi Medical College Principal Dr Mohammad Umer.

On Wednesday, on the directives of the health secretary, the RMC principal called a meeting of the three government hospitals’ medical superintendents and got down to prepare a plan to deal with measles patients.

The Rawalpindi Medical College principal is the chief executive officer of the three allied hospitals which fall under the administrative control of the RMC.

During the meeting, Dr Umer was informed by the officials that “due to lack of interest on the part of the district health department, vaccine for measles had not been administered to children during the last few years. As a result, the number of measles cases increased”.

Due to low coverage, measles spread and also affected children who had been administered anti-measles vaccine. “The quality of the vaccine is also questionable,” they added.

To deal with the situation, the meeting decided to start anti-measles vaccination in HFH, BBH and DHQ Hospital from 8am to 8pm daily where all children below the age of 14 years would be vaccinated.

The meeting further said the isolation ward at DHQ Hospital would be established on emergency basis but critical cases would be referred to HFH and BBH.

The number of beds at BBH Measles Isolation Ward will be increased from six to 10 and medicines provided free of cost.

The RMC principal directed the medical superintendents of the three hospitals to make necessary arrangements for vaccination and other drugs to deal with measles patients on emergency basis.

He said wards would be established at those places where entry of measles patients would be separate from other children and patients. The doctors have been asked to pay special attention to patients with measles.

Later talking to Dawn, DHQ Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Suhail Ejaz confirmed that a 10-bed ward had been set up at the hospital’s emergency department following the meeting.

BBH Medical Superintendent Dr Asif Qadir Mir said the hospital received four to six patients daily with symptoms of measles, adding that it had increased the number of beds at its isolation ward from six to 10.

He said vaccination to children from the age of nine months to 14 years would be administered from 8am to 8pm from June 20.

Vaccination in the evening will facilitate people to bring their children to the hospital after returning from work, he added.