‘Continuing surgeries at NICVD amid pandemic a political decision’

Published November 20, 2020
A recently replaced senior doctor serving at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases claims the hospital management had decided to ignore all guidelines during the pandemic because of “political” reasons. — Photo courtesy NICVD website
A recently replaced senior doctor serving at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases claims the hospital management had decided to ignore all guidelines during the pandemic because of “political” reasons. — Photo courtesy NICVD website

KARACHI: A recently replaced senior doctor serving at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) claimed on Thursday that the hospital management had decided to ignore all guidelines during the ongoing Covid pandemic only because of “political” reasons.

The situation, he said, could lead to rise in mortality among operated-upon patients of the hospital which was as high as 26 per cent three years ago and reduced to below 15pc within three months after induction of skilled professionals and a competent team.

The claim came from one of the most senior members of the NICVD medical faculty and administration who was replaced earlier this week after he raised alarm over Covid-19 cases among the staff and health workers of the health facility.

Although the NICVD administration on Wednesday claimed that the head of the cardiac surgery department was removed only after his contract had expired, Dr Pervaiz Chaudhry was quick to respond and addressed a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday to “expose the lie and conspiracy” that was “ruining the key health institution” and “flawed excuses” of the NICVD top management that “put many lives at risk and its repute” as well.

However, the NICVD administration said that Dr Chaudhry’s claims were “ill-intentioned”.

‘Do Not Resuscitate’ decision

“When I joined the NICVD as its head of surgery in 2017 mortality among operated-upon patients here was as high as 26pc and one of its main reasons was DNR [Do Not Resuscitate] instructions by the cardiac

surgeons to the NICVD staff to get the beds vacant and to fill them with other patients as surgeons used to get money irrespective of success or failure of the surgeries,” he said.

After he started heading the crucial section of the health facility, he claimed, mortality among operated-upon patients reduced to below 15pc within three months following his directives that DNR orders should only be coming either from the family or the ethics committee.

“I also decided no payment to be made to surgeons whose patients would be dying on operating table,” said Dr Chaudhry.

The NICVD administration after recently removing him has appointed associate professor Dr Asad Bilal Awan as the acting head of cardiac surgery department after Dr Chaudhry decided to suspend surgeries at all NICVD centres as several surgeons, nurses, technicians and paramedics tested positive for Covid-19.

Dr Chaudhry said he was brought to Pakistan by NICVD executive director Prof Nadeem Qamar to revamp the surgery department where all 17 surgeons had “their own protocols” and all of them were “playing with the lives of people”.

“It was my decision which became official order that no surgeon would be paid any fee if his or her patient dies on the operating table or immediately after the surgery. This reduced the mortality rate as they started the selection of patients wisely. Taking the lead, I decided to operate upon serious, critically-sick patients as I was US-trained surgeon and had the experience in dealing with such patients,” he maintained.

Responding to a question about the circumstances that led to appointment of one of his juniors as acting head of surgery department, he said that he had ordered suspension of all the cardiac surgeries on Sunday last after several surgeons and staff were tested positive for Covid-19. Because of ‘political’ reasons the NICVD administration decided to continue cardiac surgeries and endangered the lives of patients as well as surgeons, he claimed.

“The NICVD administration is unfortunately playing politics,” he said. “Covid-19 is raging on and it has spread among surgical department staff of NICVD too. I took the decision to save the lives of both healthcare providers and patients but my directives were not followed and instead, one of my juniors was given the charge of head of surgery,” he said and vowed that he would not be leaving NICVD before December 2021 in line with his five-year contract.

Allegations rejected

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the NICVD rejected the allegations levelled by Dr Pervaiz Chaudhry and claimed that he was “attempting ill-intentioned moves to tarnish the repute of [one of] the country’s most successful health facilities”.

In a statement, the spokesperson added that the NICVD had grown to its excellence well before the joining of Dr Chaudhry as head of its surgery unit and it still enjoyed services of the country’s best health professionals.

“Well before joining of Dr Chaudhry, the NICVD was performing more than 4,000 surgeries in a year,” he said. “The institute has witnessed phenomenal growth after Prof Nadeem Qamar joined as its executive director. In 2015, there was only one NICVD and right now it’s operating some 28 facilities becoming one of the largest health networks in the world. Dr Chaudhry is venting out his anger only because his contract has not been extended.”

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2020

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