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MARDAN, Dec 31: Though the government is spending huge amount on construction of new block and installation of modern machinery at Gyne Hospital, the residents of Mardan are sceptical about its usefulness owing to what they call poor management and shortage of staff at the health facility.

Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti launched record development projects worth billions of rupees in his native Mardan district after coming into power as a result of 2008 elections. Funds worth billions of rupees were allocated for construction of new buildings as well as repair of old structures including that of Gyne Hospital.

Sources in health department told this correspondent that the new block of the heath facility included wards, labour room, operation theatre and laboratory. Modern and latest equipment were being installed at the hospital, they said.

“The construction of new block at the hospital is a welcome step but real problem being faced by patients is shortage of specialist doctors and other staff including women medical officers and paramedics,” said residents of the area.

They said that patients had been faced with numerous problems for the last one-and-a-half year as the two wards, a labour room and operation theatre at the hospital were not sufficient for 1.6 million population of the district.

Sources said that presently there was only one gynaecologist -- Dr Asmat Askar -- at the hospital. She too often remained on leave due to her health condition, they added.

They said that the lone woman medical officer Dr Fozia, who was recently transferred to the hospital, had to handle all the gyne cases till 2pm. “The labour room of the hospital remains closed for rest of the day and whole night,” they said. Sources said that patients had no other option but to go to private clinics or wait till arrival of the doctor the next day. Owing to lack of specialist doctors and shortage of women medical officers and paramedical staff, most of the cases were referred to other hospitals of the province, they added.

Sources alleged that some of the doctors had hired the services of touts, who roamed around the hospital gate to take patients to their private maternity homes and clinics.

An official at the hospital told Dawn on condition of anonymity that two to three gynaecologists and 12 to 13 women medical officers were performing duty at the same hospital some one-and-a-half year ago.

Abdullah, a resident of the area, told this scribe that he took his wife to the hospital for routine checkup but he was stunned to see that she was referred to a male ultrasound specialist owing to absence of a lady doctor. He said that he had no option but to take his wife back to home without checkup.

It may be recalled that Dr Tariq Anwar, an ultrasound specialist at the district headquarters hospital, had been suspended about a month ago on the charges of harassing a female patient. The relatives of the patient and local people had held protest demonstration against the doctor, who was also head of radiology department, when the patient complained about the harassment. The authorities suspended him after the complaint.

It merits a mention here that Gyne Hospital and district headquarters hospital both are managed by the same medical superintendent.

An official in district health department told Dawn that poor management was main cause of the prevailing condition of the Gyne Hospital. About shortage of staff, he said that some of the senior doctors switched over to Mardan Medical College for teaching purpose while others were transferred or retired.

Dr Mohammad Tahir, the medical superintendent of district headquarters hospital, told Dawn that authorities accepted leave application of the lone gyne specialist at the hospital without his recommendations. He alleged that the said doctor was doing private practice after getting three-month leave from Gyne Hospital.