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Tanker episode highlights ‘scarce’ facilities

June 29, 2017

LAHORE: The oil tanker fire tragedy in Bahawalpur and the way the patients have been provided with treatment has highlighted the ‘scarce’ facilities at public sector hospitals in Punjab.

The provincial administration has come under fire after a number of people could not be adequately treated. As many as 23 patients with critical burns were transported to the Jinnah Hospital, Lahore, covering approximately a distance of 440km from Bahawalpur.

The visit of the political figures from opposition parties to the Jinnah Hospital [burn unit] on Wednesday also brought the matter to the limelight, raising a question mark on the Punjab government’s ‘failed health strategies’.

Health dept claims general surgery units are also treating burn patients

Dawn has talked to some relevant people about the available facilities of burn units for patients in the largest province. The Punjab chapter of the Young Doctors Association (YDA) has gathered statistics in the wake of the oil tanker episode, showing that there are nine divisions housing a network of all government hospitals in Punjab.

“Only four hospitals in three divisions [out of nine] have burn units,” YDA Punjab President Maroof Vaince tells Dawn.

According to him, at present 209 beds are available for burn patients at four major state-run hospitals in Punjab. Of them, he says, 74 are located at Jinnah Hospital, Lahore, 72 at Nishtar Hospital, Multan, 55 at Allied Hospital, Faisalabad, and eight at Mayo Hospital, Lahore.

He claims that the beds reserved for plastic surgery and general surgery at government hospitals are also being presented ‘as burn unit beds’ to dispel the impression about poor health facilities.

He says non-availability of burn units in the entire Bahawalpur division has exposed the Punjab government’s priorities towards the [deprived] people of the province.

He laments that the burn unit at Nishtar Hospital doesn’t provide treatment to under 13-year-old [burn] patients.

“Shockingly, the government hospitals in the entire south Punjab don’t have a single burn facility for children and they are being forced to visit Lahore or any other part of the province,” Maroof Vaince says. He claims the burn unit of Allied Hospital, Faisalabad, is not properly functioning. The two posts of assistant professors, six of senior registrars and 10 of medical officers are lying vacant at this critical unit of the hospital.

Vaince says at least each teaching and district headquarter hospital should have designated beds for burn patients.

On the other hand, the official figures provided by Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Secretary Najam Shah clash with those shared by the YDA.

Shah claims that at present 119 patients are under treatment at different hospitals.

According to the government statistics, there are total 347 beds reserved for burn units in various government hospitals of Punjab.

In addition to 209 beds at the above-mentioned four government hospitals of Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan, the health department claims that 138 more beds (reserved for the plastic surgery units) are also attending burn patients.

It says Aziz Bhatti Shaheed Hospital, Gujrat, is housing 20 beds, Shaikh Zayed Hospital, Rahim Yar Khan, 24, Services Hospital, Lahore, 30, Lahore General Hospital, 20, Children’s Hospital, Lahore, 24, and Holy Family Hospital, Rawalpindi, has 20 beds.

The department claims all the general surgery units at public sector hospitals in Punjab are also providing treatment to burn patients in addition to the above-mentioned infirmaries.

The medical experts, however, says there are 34 district headquarter hospitals (DHQs) and 46 teaching institutes including specialised care hospitals like Punjab Institute of Cardiology and Children’s Hospital.

They say the availability [of burn units] in the few government hospitals is a matter of grave concern that shows government’s lack of interest.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2017