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Medico-legal centres across Sindh suffer from neglect

Updated April 22, 2013

KARACHI, April 21: While government hospitals in only three police divisions in Sindh — Karachi, Hyderabad and Larkana — have medico-legal centres, all the three posts of medico-legal officers are lying vacant at the Chandka Medical College and Hospital in Larkana, which is the largest medical facility in the upper part of Sindh, it emerged on Sunday.

In all, there are four police divisions in the province — Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Larkana.

Hospitals in districts other than Hyderabad and Karachi make do with their medical officers who perform medico-legal formalities and issue the required certificates.

Even though the presence of a medico-legal centre is mandatory for a teaching hospital, such as the case in the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Civil Hospital Karachi and the Liaquat University Hospital in Hyderabad, there are no sanctioned posts for medico-legal officers in Sukkur despite the fact that Ghulam Mohammad Mahar College has been functioning for at least five years.

Currently there are two senior medical officers working under the additional police surgeon of Sukkur Civil Hospital.

In urban divisions of Hyderabad and Karachi, 16 out of total 29 posts in Hyderabad and around 20 out of a total of 71 posts in Karachi’s medico-legal section are vacant.

Unequal workload

Although there are a total of nine medico-legal centres in Karachi, only three in major government hospitals are functioning round the clock.

Except for the medico-legal centres at the Abbasi Shaheed, the Civil and the Jinnah hospitals, the rest of them lack adequate facilities or staff to deal with the cases.

What is interesting is that the budget for the medico-legal department of Hyderabad is higher than that of Karachi even though the department there has 42 less posts than Karachi and only two medico-legal centres.

“The annual budget for medico-legal department is between Rs450,000 and Rs500,000,” said Karachi Civil Surgeon Dr Aslam Pechuho while speaking to Dawn.

“When I came to office around three months ago there was not even enough money to buy stationery. But the budget for Hyderabad is about 70 per cent higher than that of Karachi’s.”

Last year, Karachi saw the highest number of targeted killings over the past two decades. Around 2,000 people were killed on ethnic, political or sectarian grounds.

According figures provided by the police surgeon’s office, there were a total of 31,046 medico-legal cases in all centres across Karachi in 2012. The largest number of these cases was attended at the Civil, Jinnah and Abbasi Shaheed hospitals while the remaining centres dealt with only a smattering of them.

Out of the total cases, 12,704 were reported from the Jinnah hospital, 10,235 from the Abbasi Shaheed and 6,797 from the Civil hospital.

Around one-third of these cases, more than 10,000, were of women, hence only to be taken care of by nine women medico-legal officers working in these three hospitals.

Situation in upper Sindh

The Chandka Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) in Larkana is a 1,350-bed institution catering for the needs of people from Larkana and Sukkur divisions, as well as parts of Punjab and Balochistan.

Besides the dearth of medico-legal officers, there is also not enough space for more than one body in the cold storage room of CMCH mortuary, said Larkana police surgeon Saifullah Abbasi.

Besides, the post of additional police surgeon was also vacant, he added.

The district health officer of Larkana said that a number of medical officers, including 14 female medical officers, had been deputed to work on rotation basis in health centres and hospitals in Dokri, Ratodero and Naudero.

Meanwhile, sources told Dawn that the hospital lacked proper equipment for performing autopsies while there were improper arrangements for sanitation, lighting and security.

Even if autopsies were performed, there were no funds to buy jars for storing viscera, the sources said.