Sahiwal, Khanewal episodes: PMA demands CM’s apology, dismissal of health secretary

Published June 22, 2024
The OPD of Services Hospital deserted due to a strike by nurses. — White Star
The OPD of Services Hospital deserted due to a strike by nurses. — White Star

LAHORE: The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has demanded immediate dismissal of Punjab Health Secretary Ali Jan from service in the light of the findings of a ‘fact-finding report’ finalised by the association on the deaths of the children in the government hospitals of Sahiwal and Khanewal, followed by arrest of some senior doctors and a staff nurse.

Sharing the report with the media persons in a hurriedly-called press conference here on Friday, the PMA leaders held the health secretary primarily responsible for the tragic incidents, saying that the arrests of the senior medics, nurse and paramedics, especially the video clips showing the Sahiwal Medical College principal and other faculty members in hand-cuffs, caused resentment among the medical fraternity.

“We demand immediate termination of the health secretary who misled the Punjab chief minister by distorting facts to cover up his own negligence,” Lahore PMA President Prof Dr Ashraf Nizami said.

PMA Lahore Secretary General Prof Shahid Malik, central president-elect Dr Izhar Ahmed Chaudhry, PMA Punjab secretary general Dr Kamran Ahmed, Lahore vice presidents Prof Khalid Mahmood Khan, Dr Iram Shahzadi and other senior officials were present at the presser.

Seeks judicial probe into children’s deaths at two hospitals

The PMA leaders alleged that the Punjab government has shown “insanity and mismanagement”, besides taking inconclusive measures in dealing the tragic deaths of children in the two state-run hospitals of the province.

They accused the health department of making erratic appointments on the advice of “incompetent bureaucracy”, resulting in gross negligence and mismanagement.

“It has been established that the fire [in Sahiwal hospital] broke out due to faulty wiring, hanging wires and poor-quality air-conditioning [system] and it was all part of the revamping spectacle”, the PMA Lahore president said.

He regretted that neither the engineers involved in the entire revamp work, maintenance and repair, nor “department parasites” and contractors of communication and works department were held accountable for the Sahiwal episode.

It was quite unfortunate that the health and the government authorities just held responsible the doctors and got them arrested despite knowing that they had nothing to do with the repair and maintenance issues, he added.

“After the tragedy in Sahiwal government hospital, the white elephant called Board of Management was nowhere to be seen in the investigations of the health department”, the PMA president deplored and alleged thatthe BOM and the bureaucracy responsible for this crime were not charged because of nepotism.

“Where is the Punjab Healthcare Commission (PHC) in the entire episode despite being a key stakeholder in this mismanagement. The Commission was doing nothing but imposing fines and collecting money”, Mr Nizami said, asking why the PHC turned a blind eye to the mismanagement in the government hospitals.

“The Sahiwal commissioner’s report of June 8 is on record, observing that before Rescue 1122 teams arrived, the human resource of the hospital had already rescued the children,” Prof Izhar Chaudhry said.

He also lashed out at CM Maryam Nawaz, saying she visited the hospital six days after the incident, and humiliated the whole medical fraternity by ordering senior doctors’ arrest.

He said it is also a hard fact that the 15 healthcare professionals are victims of police brutality and were getting treatment in hospital with broken bones.

Prof Chaudhry alleged that the Sahiwal commissioner and the DPO threatened the doctors with registering FIRs against them on terrorism charges for raising the matter of brutal use of the police force against hospital staff.

Declaring the arrest of medical teachers ashumiliation of the noble profession, the PMA leaders demanded an apology from the CM and the government officers concerned.

About the Khanewal DHQ Hospital incident, they said the guidelines for the vaccine administered to the children were not issued to the hospital, which was a gross negligence of the health department itself.

“The Punjab government had issued an alert about the side-effects of the vaccine in-question and [ordered] its withdrawal from the market. So the question is why this vaccine was supplied to the [Khanewal DHQ] hospital,” Prof Chaudhry said.

He said the government sent a nurse, Aqsa, behind the bars, but no action was initiated against the Khanewal chief executive officer (health) and the drug controller, who were the most concerned officers and responsible for the supply of the faulty drug to the hospital.

The PMA leaders demanded a judicial inquiry into the Sahiwal and Khanewal tragic incidents to fix responsibility and hold the relevant officers accountable. They also demanded release of all the arrested paramedics and other employees of the hospitals.

“The health secretary [who is] involved in the irregularities in the name of revamping and the [main] cause of the tragedy should be dismissed immediately and the self-respect of the doctors should be restored,“the PMA leaders demanded.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2024

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