PIC trudges back to life

Updated 15 Dec 2019

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Patients are seen through a broken window of PIC following an attack by lawyers in the premises in Lahore. — AFP/File
Patients are seen through a broken window of PIC following an attack by lawyers in the premises in Lahore. — AFP/File

LAHORE: The shattered windowpanes have been replaced and bedside monitors are blinking. The medical staff is dutifully checking the patients’ vital statistics. As the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) reopens, things are slowly trudging ahead.

The hospital courtyard is brimming with cops, and there’s a sense of caution and wariness in the air. But it is business as usual – as much as can be.

Outside the emergency ward, relatives of patients seem to be welcoming the sun after the rain and bitter cold. A new day seems to have dawned. There are fresh bouquets of roses for those who died -- from some senior lawyers who visited a night before -- as well as a flex inscribed with ‘Yaadgar Saaneha Shauhada PIC’.

There is no compensation for Muhammad Arsalan’s loss. The 12-year-old lost his father on the fateful day and his uncle says he saw it with his own eyes how the attackers pulled the patient’s drip and oxygen mask.

Not many are willing to speak openly about the day, but snatches of conversations reveal that the camera outside the VIP entrance was removed by the lawyers and all the footage of the CCTV cameras inside is now with the hospital administration, with no inclination of it being released any time soon.

A sanitary worker says that the lawyers barged in and began seizing any equipment they could get their hands on, ripping off bedside monitors and even patients’ masks. “One of the patients died as she was on ventilator, but the footage is probably with the medical superintendent,” she says. “None of us were spared.”

Speaking about the equipment, a nurse said, “These things cost millions. We have suffered a huge financial loss for no reason.”

Grand Health Alliance President Muhammad Afzal says that the government, including the health minister, did not resolve the issue between the lawyers and doctors, or even visit much. Despite that, he says, they were thankful to her for her help.

“We would have preferred if Yasmin Rashid sorted out this brewing issue,” he said. “She came quite late after the damage was done and then hardly returned. She should have sat down with both parties when the first clash broke out.”

He rubbished the claims of doctors being involved in any violence other than defending themselves. “If someone attacks you in your house, you will defend yourself no matter what,” he said. “The amount of violence that they exerted on us, we did nothing in exchange.”

But he maintained that the arrested lawyers must be dealt with justly. “They should be punished according to what they did; we do not stand with any torture on them,” he said referring to the photos of a lawyer with marks on his back, which is doing the rounds on social media.

“The media says four patients passed away. What about the three that passed away at Umar Hospital, and four others in ambulances? How do we know how many others died that day?”

Meanwhile, the emergency ward is full and people are thankful that operations have resumed.

“We were referred from another hospital to PIC,” says the daughter of a 90-year-old woman. “It was a relief to see that the hospital began its operations at night.”

“Circumstances are challenging at the moment, especially since the public is still feeling a little scared,” says a nurse. “But at least we are back in the groove.”

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2019