Work in Karachi’s public sector hospitals affected as staff busy in poll duty

Published February 9, 2024
Polling staff opens ballot boxes in presence of poling agents from various political parties as they start counting votes as polls end during country’s national elections in Karachi on February 8. — AFP
Polling staff opens ballot boxes in presence of poling agents from various political parties as they start counting votes as polls end during country’s national elections in Karachi on February 8. — AFP

KARACHI: Patient services at all government-run hospitals across the city were seriously affected on the polling day as a significant number of the health staff had been assigned election duties, it emerged on Thursday.

Sources said that a peaceful voting process saved the day for the authorities, though the decision to engage healthcare providers in election duties could prove to be a disaster.

The patient services at Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (ASH) were almost suspended as majority of the staff was engaged in the election duties.

Speaking to Dawn on the condition of anonymity, administrative staff of the ASH said that over 750 employees, including doctors, nurses, consultants of the intensive care units, operation theatre and X-ray technicians, and laboratory staff had left to perform their “national duty”.

When contacted, ASH Medical Superintendent Dr Naeem Ahmed shared the concern over the staff shortage, but insisted that services at the hospital were not suspended.

At the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Deputy Director Dr Yahya Tunio said 60 employees of the total 1,500 healthcare providers were on the election duty while the rest provided services at the hospital.

Dr Qaiser Sajjad, representing the Pakistan Medical Association, regretted the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan of engaging the healthcare providers in the voting process.

“We came to know that even the hospital lab staff was assigned election duties. This is extremely unfortunate. How could we handle accidents and emergencies of multi-dimensional nature in such a situation,” he asked, criticising the recent issuance of arrest warrants to more than 260 healthcare providers for not reporting to the election authorities.

Healthcare providers, he emphasised, dealt with public health emergencies and must not be assigned such tasks.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2024

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