Three health workers face murder charge over measles deaths

Published June 14, 2014
Students undergo treatment at a hospital in Swat after getting anti-measles vaccine. — File photo
Students undergo treatment at a hospital in Swat after getting anti-measles vaccine. — File photo

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department on Friday announced it would book three of its technicians for intentional murder over four deaths during the recent anti-measles campaign in the province.

It also announced suspension of 10 doctors and health technicians from Peshawar hospitals for negligence in the case.

Health minister Shahram Khan Tarakai told a news conference here on Friday that the suspension had been ordered in light of a high-level inquiry into the deaths of four children and hospitalisation of dozens in Peshawar after their vaccination against measles during the 12 days campaign, which began across the province on May 19.

He said the inquiry committee had found that technician Tariq, supervisor Majid and helper Zareef wrongly administered anti-measles vaccine to children causing their deaths and therefore, cases would be registered against them for intentional murder under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code.


Minister says technicians didn’t administer vaccine properly


The officials said around 9.6 million children were vaccinated during the campaign and that the federal government had purchased anti-measles vaccines used in it from India.

After the death of four children and hospitalisation of many more, the provincial government had ordered inquiry into it.

There followed formation of an inquiry committee headed by Peshawar deputy commissioner Zaheerul Islam and consisting of senior doctors and a representative of the World Health Organisation.

“The committee found that three technicians didn’t inject vaccines properly to children and thus, causing their deaths. In this light, the three have been suspended forthwith and a case against them will be registered under Section 302 of the PPC,” said Shahram Tarakai, who was accompanied by information minister Shah Farman.

The health minister said after improper administration of the vaccine, the children were brought to three major hospitals of Peshawar, including Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH), Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) and Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC), for treatment.

“The affected children didn’t survive due to the negligence of relevant doctors at these hospitals and therefore, the committee also recommended their suspension,” he said.

Shahram Tarakai said the government had zero tolerance for medical negligence and that action would be taken against the culpable ones under the law.


In depth: Report on measles deaths to be made public: minister


He said the health department had ordered suspension of provincial Expanded Programme for Immunisation coordinator Dr Janbaz Afridi and that Rs500,000 would be paid to the family of every child died of improper administration of vaccination as compensation.

According to him, other doctors and associate professors, who have been suspended for negligence in the case, are LRH medical officer Dr Sher Aslam, KTH medical officer Dr Mudassir Shahzad, HMC junior registrar Dr Ahmad Saeed, LRH associate professor Dr Afzal Khattak, LRH senior registrar Dr Faridullah Shah, LRH senior registrar Dr Rashida Kareem, LRH senior registrar Dr Mohsin Hayat, LRH senior registrar Dr Ameer Mohammad and HMC associate professor Dr Younis Paracha.

In addition, the department has asked Post Graduate Medical Institute to impose lifetime ban on the training of four trainee doctors in the government health institutions of the province.

Among them are LRH medical officer Arif, LRH TMO Fazle Ahad, LRH TMO Fakhruddin and HMC TMO Asif Siddiqui.

Earlier, information minister Shah Farman said the anti-corruption department had either arrested or issued orders for the arrest of 144 government employees for corruption during the ongoing campaign.

He said Rs13.9 million ill-gotten money had been recovered from the said employees.

Shah Farman said the anti-corruption campaign would be accelerated in the days ahead.

He said the price control committee had been dissolved due inefficiency but the government had no plans to dissolve the anti-corruption department.

The minister said prices of daily commodities had decreased after dissolution of the committee.

“We won’t allow artificial price hike during and after Ramazan,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2014

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