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MURREE: No adequate health facilities exist for the 600,000 people living in Murree and adjoining areas.

The only public sector hospital in the area is the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital where conditions today are deplorable.

The hospital is often short on medicines and patients leave without life-saving drugs.

Hygiene is also ignored, especially in the small room allocated for emergency cases. What is especially alarming is that paramedic staff does not wear gloves or scrubs while operating on the emergency patients.

Many people smoke on hospital premises and patient rooms are not properly cleaned. Even garbage from the nearby hotels ends up in the hospital grounds.

The hospital parking reserved for ambulances, patients and doctors is used by hotel customers creating problems for patients.

Many promises were made by politicians and incoming government officials but the posts for specialist doctors remain vacant at the hospital.

There is no gynecologist, child specialist, senior surgeon or cardiologist for the people of Murree.

Some six years ago funding was provided by a donor for feeding patients admitted to the hospital and a water filter was installed to provide drinking water. However, due to unknown reasons, these facilities are no longer operational.

Five years ago construction of residences for doctors began but was halted after some time.

With no proper residence available, any doctor who comes to this hospital has to acquire expensive private houses in this resort town unaffordable on a government salary.

Resultantly, they try to get transferred out as soon as possible.

Two years ago, USAID donated state-of-the-art machines to the hospital at a cost of Rs5.5 million but the machines were never used and are kept in a room where they sit rusting away.

Bodies and injured from road accidents in Murree and the Galyaat regions of KPK are brought to this hospital where influential people routinely influence the Medico Legal Reports (MLR). It is alleged by residents of Murree that some doctors have been at the hospital for a long time and purposely force patients to come to their private clinics where they are charged heavily.

A 150-bed hospital was announced by former president General Pervez Musharraf and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif laid the foundation stone for the hospital in a formal ceremony at Dairy Farm Murree.

This project too never materialised. Similarly, the prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif announced a modern hospital for the people of Murree while addressing a public gathering at GPO Chowk during election campaign in 2013. No action has been initiated in this regard either.

Medical Superintendent (MS) of THQ Hospital Dr Khalid Masood said facilities for specialists were not available which was why they never stay.

He said salary for doctors in smaller cities like Murree is also less. He added that specialists do visit THQ Hospital on a weekly basis from the allied hospitals of Rawalpindi. He contested that hygiene and cleanliness is being maintained at the hospital.

Regarding machinery provided by USAID, he said that the machines were installed in the nursery of the hospital but due to unavailability of child specialists machines are not used.

Dr Khalid said that he had initiated a transparent system and an affidavit is obtained from the patients or their attendants that they are satisfied with the hospital.

Meanwhile permanent residents of the resort town appealed to the Prime Minister and the Punjab Chief Minister to take serious notice of poor healthcare in Murree and called upon them to fulfill their promises.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2014