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KARACHI: All 13 medical facilities run by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation may not be able to cater to any medical emergency on July 25, polling day, as majority of its medical and health services staffers, including 500 doctors and 300 nurses, have been deputed on election duties, it emerged on Tuesday.

Sources told Dawn that the KMC had already been facing problems in running its major health facilities in the city for the past two weeks as over 1,500 medical staff, deputed on election duty, had been undergoing election training, causing a drastic decrease in the number of patients being attended to at the outpatient department.

This is for the first time that the medical staff of hospitals, considered part of essential services, have been deputed on election duties for the July 25 elections as presiding officers and assistant presiding officers.

For the first time, the ECP has assigned election duties to 500 doctors, 300 nurses of KMC

The sources said that over 1,500 employees of the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (ASH), Karachi Institute of Heart Diseases (KIHD), Sarfraz Rafiqui Shaheed Hospital, Sobhraj Maternity Hospital (SMH), Landhi Medical Complex, Spencer Eye Hospital, Landhi Cardiac Centre, Shah Faisal Cardiac Centre, Homeopathic Hospital Nazimabad, Leprosy Hospital Manghopir, Gazdarabad Maternity & General Hospital (GMGH) and other healthcare facilities were asked to get training by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to perform duties.

They said thousands of patients were suffering daily as most of the hospitals’ staffers were undergoing election training.

ECP undecided

However, Municipal Commissioner Dr Syed Saif-ur-Rehman said that the essential staff, including senior doctors and teaching faculties, would be on duty in all KMC-run medical facilities on polling day as the KMC had obtained exemption for them from the ECP.

“We have sent a list of medical staff to the election commission and most of them have been exempted from election duties on polling day,” he added.

The sources said that the KMC’s medical and health services had on July 11 requested the ECP to exempt the staff of its three major hospitals — ASH, KIHD and SMH — from election duties.

They said that the ECP was informed that the ASH was the third biggest hospital of the city providing health facilities and emergency cover to Central district and many parts of West and East districts. The SMH provided round-the-clock gynaecological facilities.

Besides, the sources said, the KMC in its letter to the ECP said that the KIHD attended to over 2,000 patients daily and heart surgeries were carried out at the facility.

They said that the ECP was further informed that all KMC hospitals remain on “high alert” in case of any disaster and emergency situation in the city and the leaves of staffers remain suspended during emergencies.

The sources said that the KMC informed the election commission that its hospitals would not be in a position to give emergency cover to people in case of any emergency on polling day and requested for exemption of staff of its three major hospitals from election duty.

However, they said no decision was taken on the KMC’s request.

A wave of resentment

The sources said the issuance of bailable warrants for the arrest of KMC doctors and nurses sent a wave of resentment among the medical staff.

An additional district and sessions judge (South), who is the returning officer of NA-246, had issued warrants for the arrest of five doctors of the KMC-run Spencer Eye Hospital for not appearing before him to receive the order with regard to election duty.

They said that all the KMC employees were deputed on election duties in West district alone as per the understanding with the election commission.

The sources said that all KMC employees had already received election commission’s orders for their posting in district West, still returning officers of South district ordered the KMC doctors and nurses to perform election duty with them.

They said that the doctors served with warrants informed the district South court that they had already undergone election training in West district where they were posted to perform election duties.

The sources said that the registrar of the Sindh High Court and Election Commission were approached by the KMC’s medical and health services regarding the issuance of warrants for arrest of KMC medical staff.

However, they said, it was not ascertained if the warrants against KMC doctors were cancelled.

Published in Dawn, July 18th, 2018