HYDERABAD: As the city yet again becomes a hotspot for coronavirus exactly after a year since outbreak of the pandemic with positivity ratio fluctuating between 23 and 24 per cent over the past one week, nothing has changed for Covid-19 patients in Liaquat University Hospital (LUH) Hyderabad — the only tertiary healthcare facility in lower Sindh other than Karachi — as far as quality of care is concerned.
The state of affairs at LUH’s high dependency unit (HDU) and intensive care unit (ICU) remains the same, struggling to cope with increasing number of Covid-19 patients with insufficient number of technicians and trained nurses since last year.
It shows the health department has not learnt any lessons from last year’s experience and it lacks seriousness to ensure qualitative service to patients in times of pandemic while LUH one again braces for load of Covid patients from other districts as well.
Hospital under immense pressure of patients coming from many districts
The situation has set alarm bells ringing for administration with divisional commissioner cautioning at a meeting on Monday that health facilities are likely to become overcrowded.
“We are making efforts to handle pressure at the LUH by strengthening secondary level [health] facilities to ease burden on this hospital,” said Deputy Commissioner Fuad Soomro.
“I suggest to government to beef up Covid-19 units in Sukkur, Nawabshah and other cities to share burden of LUH, otherwise it will become overcrowded,” said Prof Dr Imran Shaikh, who looks after Covid-19 ICU and HDU.
The 18-bed HDU meant for patients with less severe complications and ICU for critical patients have been filled to capacity due to burden of patients from other districts. Until Sunday, the HDU and ICU had 52 patients, 28 from Hyderabad and the rest from other districts, said additional MS Dr Shahid Junejo. “Out of 48 patients on April 26, one died last night, two shifted to Karachi and one was discharged,” he said.
A LUMHS teacher disclosed that ICU and HDU faced at least 60pc shortage of technical and nursing staff right now whereas medical units had already started receiving Covid-positive patients.
“We have one technician per shift and two trained nurses to take care of 18-bed ICU although in present situation four technicians and four trained nurses are required to manage 18 patients. And this is minimum possible requirement,” he said.
But LUH director administration claimed: “We have arranged technical and nursing staff and are spending Rs2.5m on them through donations because Sindh government is yet to appoint regular staff”.
With increasing load of patients demand for oxygen supply has increased manifold. LUH receives 10,000kg supply of oxygen in two tanks, one for Covid-19 ICU and second for other patients.
DRL remains overburdened
LUMH’s Diagnostic and Research Laboratory (DRL) is performing around 5,000 to 6,000 tests per day, according to pro-VC and DRL head, Dr Ikram Ujjan. LUMHS had started with 300 tests per day last year but tests increased considerably, adding to liabilities of DRL. Government owes Rs500m to the lab towards cost of accessories for PCR tests and salaries of staff working round the clock.
“We receive tests from Karachi’s West, East, Malir and South districts as well besides Sindh’s other districts. Government had provided us Rs150m so far and promised for clearing the rest,” said Dr Ujjan.
The tests’ sampling in other districts has also become questionable. “In one case on Sunday out of 600 tests, not a single result turned up positive in Thatta. Isn’t it surprising that a district as large as Thatta doesn’t have a single positive case out of 600? It is alarming that potential positive patients can jeopardize their own and others’ lives,” he remarked.
Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2021