LAHORE: The Punjab’s major health facility — Children’s Hospital Lahore — is in the throes of alleged negligence of the institute’s management, exposing the ‘tall claims’ of CM Maryam Nawaz and Health Minister Khwaja Salman Rafique of making it ‘the state-of-the-art public sector hospital of the country.’

Much was claimed by them during the recent surprise visit to the hospital when the institute’s top management had claimed that sick kids were in safe hands, allegedly misleading the chief minister about the acute shortage of essential medicines, non-provision of test facilities, closure of central air-conditioning system, frequent theft case of drugs and fire incidents in the medicine store.

In the fresh episode, the health of hundreds of minor patients, including those in the incubators and intensive care units, were at greater risk as, for the first time, all kinds of major and minor surgeries have been postponed for the last three days due to persistent suspension of the water supply to the entire hospital.

The situation is dire, with attendants coming from Punjab and other provinces defecating in open spaces around the hospital due to choked toilets.

Drugs shortage, choked toilets, disrupted water supply plague health facility

The women attendants are visiting the nearby mosques, residences and the Model Town courts in the scorching heat to answer the call of nature, often facing resistance from local residents and mosque administrations. Hospital officials have described this as a ‘human crisis,’ saying that the canteen and nearby medical store owners increased the prices of the pampers for the kids due to the closure of toilets.

Open defecation is polluting the environment, posing health risks due to the foul smell from choked toilets.

The crisis worsened when young doctors went on strike following a scuffle between attendants of a minor patient on Monday last, leading to the closure of Out Patient Department (OPD) and indoor ward services, risking the lives of many ailing children.

An official said the vice chancellor of the University of Child Health, medical director, and all the senior admin officers stopped sitting in their offices to avoid the ‘wrath’ of the attendants, opting to hide in the officers’ mess of the institute or other hardly-visited parts of the hospital and deploying security guards.

To meet their own water requirements, the official said the top management and the senior doctors have managed supply through Wasa. He said almost all the lab services have also been shut down, forcing the patients to avail the private sector.

The canteen owner is reportedly charging five times the market rate for mineral water and has significantly increased prices for other items. The official said one of the leading factors behind the suspension of the water supply to the hospital was that the pipe of the tubewell ruptured and the administration failed to address it promptly.

The problem persisted for two days or so and the institute called the Wasa authorities to address the issue when it aggravated.

The Wasa officials first delayed the response and then slowed down the process of repairing the motor and tubewell supply line. The issue is yet to be resolved, he said.

Many senior doctors, including surgeons, stopped visiting the institute due to closure of the operation theatres and other services, he said.

He lamented that the senior doctors were running their private practice as usual and referring the patients to their clinic, leaving many other children either unattended or at the mercy of nurses and paramedics.

The parents of the sick patients have urged the CM to take notice of the situation.

Medical Director of Children’s Hospital Prof Dr Tepu Sultan told Dawn that the Communication and Works department was on board and working on it to restore the water supply, while refusing to share more details.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2024

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