Violence erupted at the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) on Friday night after dozens of people vandalised the facility and attacked doctors, allegedly because the medical staff "delayed handing over the body" of a Covid-19 patient, officials said.
Police officials said that a patient was brought to the hospital at 2:15am on Friday but he died while being treated. The doctors suspected the patient to have the coronavirus and conducted a test, which came back positive.
However, the relatives of the deceased patient refuted the test results and alleged that the doctors had declared him to be positive even though he was "normal".
Officials said that some 70 people stormed the hospital ward at around 10:30pm. They resorted to violence and forcibly took away the body. Videos taken of the hospital's entrance showed a large number of people removing equipment such as stretchers from the hospital premises and breaking the sanitiser gate installed there.
Responding to allegations of delay, CHK Medical Superintendent Dr Khadim Hussain Qureshi told Dawn.com that doctors at the hospital were only following the standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the government for handling bodies of people who die from the virus.
"We are government servants. We only follow what the government tells us," he said. He added that the patient had come to the hospital complaining of a heart problem. The doctors suspected that he had the coronavirus and conducted a test. "It takes time for the result to be received," he said.
Qureshi said that none of the doctors were injured in the violence. He added, however, that a female doctor was slapped by one of the deceased's relatives. "What kind of ethics are these?" he questioned while expressing disappointment at the incident.
"Doctors are already putting their lives in danger to save people; the public should support them. The way they have resorted to beating doctors, if doctors refuse to work, who will save [the people]?
"People should understand that doctors have no enmity with anyone. When a patient comes to us, we don't see their ethnicity or religion. We only want them to get better," he said.
He noted that a large number of doctors had tested positive and were self-isolating while some had lost their lives to the virus. "People should motivate doctors so they can work on the frontlines without any mental tension," he said.
A senior police official, who wished not to be named, told Dawn.com that the hospital administration had not approached police for lodging a first information report (FIR). However, he said police have decided to register the case against the persons involved over charges of rioting and creating hindrances in official work.
Police have also asked the hospital administration to provide CCTV footage to identify and arrest the suspects.