As part of the Model Healthcare System planned for the capital, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has decided to introduce a smartphone application through which residents can call ambulances.
According to international standards, an ambulance, after receiving the call, should reach its destination within eight to nine minutes, and should shift the patient to the hospital at the earliest, and this has been made a part of the Model Healthcare System that is being introduced in Islamabad, NHS Director General Dr Asad Hafeez told Dawn.
“The system will be replicated in the provinces, so we want to make sure it will be perfect,” he added.
He said that one of the six aspects of the Model Healthcare System is to ensure connectivity with IT, and so an app was a requirement.
“We have just a few dozen ambulances on the hospitals of the capital, but we require more. On the other hand, ambulances are not used all the time, as they are sometimes used to shift 10 people and sometimes just one person. So there is a need to use ambulances smartly,” he said.
When asked how the app would work, Dr Hafeez likened it to ridesharing services Careem and Uber.
“People will have to install the ambulance service app, due to which not only will they be able to see the ambulances available in the area but they will also get information on the ambulance driver and will be aware of how much time the ambulance will take to reach. There are around 150 private ambulances in the capital, so they will also be linked to the app,” he said.
Dr Hafeez added that people can pay their ambulance bills in cash or, if they have health cards provided by the government, the charges will be deducted from their cards.
Ambulances will also have a bed registry, using which staff, after identifying the nature of the emergency, will be informed which hospital has a ventilator, bed or any other facility that the patient requires.
“Currently, patients are shifted from one hospital to another and they do not get a ventilator. However, after introducing the Model Healthcare System, ambulance staff will be aware that a ventilator is not available at a public sector hospital and they will take them directly to a private hospital after checking if a ventilator is available, because in such emergencies a delay of 10 to 20 minutes can cost a person’s life,” he said.
On May 28, the capital’s healthcare facilities were also taken up on the floor of the National Assembly, when Islamabad MNA Ali Nawaz Awan said health facilities in the capital were the worst.
“Residents of the federal capital do not get facilities at dispensaries due to lack of staff and medicines, but there are as many as 30 dispensaries on Constitution Avenue. There are 16 basic health units (BHU) in the city, but people do not get facilities there due to which all the burden of patients was on the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences and Polyclinic,” he said.
He also said there were only two hospitals in the capital, and more are needed.
National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri had referred the matter to the standing committee on health.
However, Parliamentary Secretary for NHS Nausheen Hamid had said that there were four hospitals – Pims, Polyclinic, the National Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine and the Federal General Hospital in Chak Shahzad, all of which are functional.
Ms Hamid agreed that the number of dispensaries on Constitution Avenue were a burden on human resources.
She said all the BHUs are being upgraded, and six of them will be open round-the-clock as their PC-Is have been approved.
She added that a mother and child hospital is being built in Bhara Kahu, and a 200-bed hospital will be constructed in Rawat with financial support from Saudi Arabia.
“Moreover, 100 doctors have been recruited and 70 of them have [started] their duties,” she said.
Ms Hamid had also revealed then that an app would be introduced for calling ambulances in the capital.
In February, then NHS minister Aamer Mehmood Kiani had announced the closure of all but one public dispensary on Constitution Avenue.
There are currently dispensaries operating in the Prime Minister’s Office, President House and Colony, Supreme Court, Federal Shariat Court, Foreign Office, Federal Board of Revenue, Election Commission, Parliament Lodges, various blocks of the Pak Secretariat, Federal Public Service Commission and Gulshan-i-Jinnah.
A Polyclinic official, who asked not to be named, said that in addition to Polyclinic doctors, dispensers, dressers and attendants are also deputed at dispensaries.
“The irritating thing is that over a dozen dispensaries are unauthorised but we have established them because of the pressure from powerful institutions. Unauthorised dispensaries mean that they were established without proper approval from the government due to which funding was not released and staff was not hired for those dispensaries,” he said.
He added: “Not only is staff from Polyclinic deputed, but medicine that should be given to poor patients is provided at those dispensaries. In principle, a dispensary should be opened for around 10,000 people but here dispensaries were opened at the direction of influential people as we were not able to refuse them.”
Around 30 people visit the dispensary in Gulshan-i-Jinnah, home to influential figures, every month, but staff is deputed there, the official said. The situation at other dispensaries, visited by less than 10 people every day, is the same.
When contacted, Polyclinic media coordinator Dr Sharif Astori confirmed that some unauthorised dispensaries are operating.
He said the hospital has asked the ministry in writing to close the dispensaries and establish a health centre for officials on Constitution Avenue.
“We have suggested a centre with 10 to 15 beds on Constitution Avenue, and different departments such as cardiology and radiology etc, would be established in it,” he said.
Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2019