Nawaz’s health concerns: Two hospitals express inability to provide specialised ambulance

Published August 23, 2019
Punjab Prisons Department had requested for an ambulance to be stationed outside Central Jail in case of an emergency. — AFP/File
Punjab Prisons Department had requested for an ambulance to be stationed outside Central Jail in case of an emergency. — AFP/File

LAHORE: Two government hospitals have denied a specialised cardiac ambulance facility for emergency medical cover to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Central Jail.

The Punjab Prisons Department had requested the health higher-ups to provide a fully-equipped ambulance to station it in the Central Jail to shift Nawaz Sharif to any hospital in case of any emergency. The request was submitted on finding that the ambulance made available in the jail is insufficiently equipped.

The health department had been asked for a specialised cardiac ambulance equipped with a defibrillator, cardiac monitor, ventilator and ECG machine. A defibrillator helps save life by giving a high-energy electric shock to the heart of a patient in case of cardiac arrest.

The provision of ‘inadequate’ healthcare to the incarcerated PML-N patron by the Punjab government generated a plenty of controversy, bringing the two political parties – PML-N and PTI – to the verge of collision course. The situation turned unpleasant when the PTI government in Punjab constituted four medical boards within a short span of time for the treatment of Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N said these were delaying tactics that could risk the life of the three-time prime minister.

Another controversy has surfaced after the government hospitals have refused to provide a specialised cardiac ambulance to Sharif “because of heavy burden of medical cover to the VIP, VVIPs and their families.” The claim has also irked the prisons department.

“There is a heavy burden of medical cover to the VIPs, VVIPs, foreign delegations and honorable members of the provincial assembly, and judiciary and their families...,” reads one of the official replies to the health department.

This stance was take up by a government hospital’s medical superintendent while giving response to the official correspondence of the health department (a copy is also available with Dawn). The request was sent to the Punjab Institute of Cardiology and the Services Hospital, Lahore to provide a specialised cardiac ambulance with driver for Sharif.

The medical superintendent of the Services Hospital further wrote to the authorities that his health facility was already facing an acute shortage of ambulances. He said his institute was unable to meet this requirement because it already had handed over three ambulances to the Rescue 1122 in 2017, says a letter.

The MS suggested that the health authorities manage a cardiac ambulance from the Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) to meet the requirement for the high-profile convict.

Earlier, the PIC medical superintendent had refused to provide this critical facility because of shortage of ambulances.

This reporter tried to contact Rescue 1122 Director General Dr Rizwan Naseer but he was not available for comment.

A spokesperson for the Rescue 1122 said Dr Rizwan was out of the country. He claimed that no one had contacted the department (Rescue 1122) to provide ambulance to Nawaz Sharif.

Specialized Health Secretary Momin Ali Agha said the PIC had assigned duties to the medics to ensure treatment of Nawaz Sharif in shifts in the Central Jail. And an ambulance had already been stationed there with drivers available in three shifts, he said.

He said the hospitals in question claimed that they were short of specialized cardiac ambulances and could not spare one. The department would, however, probe the matter to address the issue, he said.

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2019

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