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GUJRAT: The Wazirabad Institute of Cardiology (WIC) could not be made fully operative even two years after it was declared “functional” to the utter dismay of the heart patients who had been pinning hopes on the facility since long.

At the facility only the outdoor patients department (OPD) is working and that too only for six hours a day (from 8am to 2pm), while its operation theatre, intensive care unit (ICU) and indoor patients department are yet to be made functional.

The WIC emergency ward is closed by 2pm, while other relevant departments, including paediatric cardiology, preventive cardiology, dental surgery etc which are mandatory for a cardiology hospital could not be established there. Besides, no major heart surgery has so far been conducted at the institute.

Though the WIC had been declared ‘functional’ some two years ago, its angiography machine, installed and inaugurated in June last is without necessary backup arrangement, a must for immediately shifting a patient to the operation theatre for angioplasty or an open heart surgery.

A cardiac surgeon from the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), Lahore, has been hired for the WIC who only visits the facility once a week (on Wednesday) for conducting angiography procedures.

However, the operation theatre of a private hospital in Gujranwala (30 minutes drive from Wazirabad) has been declared backup facility after signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the WIC and the Gujranwala district government a few months ago.

The WIC, which has been under direct control of Punjab government, is without a staff hostel and a colony for the senior doctors, as these facilities were not included in its original plan devised in 2006, which is a major technical flaw. Without offering these facilities the institute will fail to attract senior medics who mostly reside in big cities like Lahore and Rawalpindi.

The WIC project was launched by the PML-Q provincial government headed by Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi as chief minister in 2006 on a 14-acre piece of land along the old GT Road with a view to provide better cardiac healthcare facilities to Gujranwala region. So far only six acres of the land have been utilised for the hospital’s main building, a nursing hostel and some other facilities.

A sum of Rs1,200 million has been spent on the building, whereas some Rs325 million have so far been spent on the procurement of the machinery for the institute which requires Rs464 million more for purchase of equipment for making at least two operations theatres functional. WIC original plan had envisaged five operation theatres.

The institute administration has put the construction of the residential colony for doctors on hold till the execution of second phase of the project, asking the government to first release the funds for making the operation theatres functional.

Though the 2006 plan envisaged WIC as a 200-bed facility, the number of beds was reduced to fifty in the first phase of the project. Even to make the 50-bed facility functional, at least 606 staffers are required, but presently the WIC has just 177 overworked staffers who have to work without shift system that could have provided them a bit of relief.

According to official data, some 500 patients visited the institute’s OPD every week after an angiography machine became operative there a couple of months back. Most of these patients come from Gujranwala, Sialkot, Gujrat and Hafizabad.

According to a senior official of the institute, patients have also been coming to the WIC OPD from Lahore for angiography because the overburdened PIC had been giving them checkup dates up to two years. And for a surgery the waiting period was even longer, he added.

“So by giving priority to making the WIC fully functional, the Punjab government could also reduce the pressure on the PIC Lahore,” says Faiz Ahmad Faizi, a social worker from Wazirabad, adding that the institute requires just Rs500 million to become fully functional and the amount was just peanuts for the Punjab government that is spending billions on bridges and road infrastructure.

He said that an inordinate delay in issuance of funds to make the WIC functional showed the priorities of Punjab rulers. He said the project which could have benefited some 20 million people of six districts of the region had fell a victim to politics only because it was launched by PML-Q government.

Chaudhry Muhammad Nawaz Kalair, a local politician, told Dawn that the site where the project was launched by PML-Q government was actually meant for a public park to be named after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

WIC Medical Superintendent Dr Muhammad Ali Shahid said currently the WIC offered echocardiography, ETT, ECG, clinical laboratory, emergency, OPD facilities, besides two cardiac ambulances. He said PC-I for making the 50-bed facility fully operational had been approved and was with the finance department. He said after release of required funds the institute would start working 24 hours in three shifts.

He said a revised PC-I had also been prepared seeking Rs464m for upgrade of the WIC to a 100-bed facility with two operation theatres. For accommodation of senior staff, the hospital management had decided to utilise third floor of the institute building declaring it a hostel as a stopgap arrangement till the construction of a separate residential colony, he added.

He said besides an 18-bed emergency, which was currently functional, the institute had a 20-bed Cardiac Care Unit (CCU) with 10 beds each for male and female patients.

He said at least 1,000 angiography procedures had been conducted at the WIC since June this year, whereas two cardiac ambulances were being used to shift patients to Gujranwala’s private hospital to use its operation theatre as a backup facility.

“Documentation is under way to seek a teaching hospital status for the WIC from the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) after which postgraduate training classes will commence here,” said the MS and added that some 110-room doctors’ hostel, five houses for professors and a residence of MS had also been planned at a cost of around Rs400m.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2016