Out-patient departments (OPDs) at several hospitals in Sindh were made operational again on Thursday, a day after the Sindh government issued the directives that came in the wake of the Chief Justice of Pakistan's (CJP) remarks against their closure.
CJP Gulzar Ahmed had on Monday bemoaned the government’s decision to shut down health facilities for people suffering from ailments other than Covid-19 by closing OPDs in all hospitals across the country in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Patients suffering from other ailments have been left at the mercy of God,” the chief justice regretted. “What kind of medical emergency is this where even people suffering from diabetes or those having a heart condition can go neither to government-run hospitals nor to private clinics,” Justice Gulzar observed during an SC hearing on Monday.
On Thursday, Dr Seemin Jamali, executive director of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical College said that although OPDs have opened, the number of patients has reduced due to the lockdown. "Previously, up to 5,000 patients came to OPDs every day, but now only 350-380 people come daily," she said, adding that the number of people who came to the emergency department had also reduced.
Jamali added that OPDs at the JPMC and the National Institute of Child Health never closed in the first place but both had seen a reduction in the number of patients. Addressing concerns about overcrowding, she said that JPMC has deployed security to prevent crowding.
Meanwhile, a senior hospital official at the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital also confirmed that the hospital opened its OPD today, but expressed concern over crowding of patients. "The health department should issue standard operating procedures (SOPs) so that this scenario (crowding) can be avoided. Hospitals should deploy doctors at entrances who examine patients and only allow them in along with one attendant."
However, the OPD at Abbasi Shaheed Hospital remained closed.
'OPDs in Punjab fully functional'
Punjab Specialised Healthcare Department spokesman Syed Hammad Raza also confirmed that all OPDs at government hospitals in the province were fully functional and started working on Thursday.
'Opening OPDs now not in public interest'
Meanwhile, a meeting of the Khyber Teaching Hospital in Peshawar reached the conclusion that opening OPDs was "not in the general interest of the public and staff". According to a press release issued by the hospital, the opening of OPDs would lead to crowding and the spread of Covid-19.
"The risk of Covid-19 infection to the staff would outweigh the benefit to the general public. When the risk of Covid-19 infection is reduced to a desirable level, the general OPD will be opened in phases after making necessary arrangements for the general public," the statement read.
Spokesperson for the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar Mohammad Asim said that they would open the OPDs soon, adding that they hadn't done so far due of a shortage of personal protective equipment. "We are also facing a shortage of staff for general OPDs because our main focus is on the coronavirus," he said.
A day earlier, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government allowed all MTIs and districts to open OPDs after they took necessary precautions on the "directions of the Supreme Court".
According to reports, all hospital OPDs in Balochistan are closed.
Additional reporting by Imran Gabol.