PESHAWAR: The tall claims of bringing reforms in health sector fall flat as the second largest public sector hospital of the province still rots with decades-old problems and mindset.
“It was the worst night of my life,” says Waseem, who lost his mother 10 years ago in Khyber Teaching Hospital. She walked herself to the medical ward wherefrom she got transferred to the Intensive Care Unit after a bad reaction during blood transfusion. The next day she was gone forever.
Ten years down the lane, Shakeel Khan is also seeing his father slowly slip away as wait for a doctor at dialysis unit of KTH looks like eternity.
It is more painful now because the PTI government in the province had made tall claims that public sector hospitals like KTH, Lady Reading Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex would be run like Shaukat Khanum Hospital, a dream which PTI chairman Imran Khan materialised by collecting charity because his own mother was also inflicted by cancer.
The PTI government passed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Medical Teaching Institutions Reforms Act in 2015 and so far its implementation is also painfully slow to bring in any relief to the patients in getting quality healthcare.
Second largest hospital of KP still infested with chronic problems
What is use of ‘free treatment’ slogan when the doctors don’t check the patients, questions Mr Khan.
“Private hospitals charge a whopping Rs35,000 per day yet useless while the public hospitals look no less than an orphanage where you have to even arrange for a wheelchair on your own least to say blood bags and asking doctors to visit to check on a patient in emergency,” complains Mr Khan.
Prof Roohul Muqeem, KTH medical director, who joined six months ago, was also shocked when he visited the hospital at midnight acting as a patient to check emergency services recently.
He said that staff was not in uniform which was why it was difficult to differentiate between staff and attendants. More shocking was that even some basic medical care life dextrose water drip was not available.
“Things are not good. It is a fact. How to fix it is big question,” said Prof Muqeem.
He feels that health reforms, if implemented in letter and spirit, could do wonders but so far only 30 per cent or so of reform process has been enforced.
There is so far no check and balance as the reform law is not fully implemented. The old employees with outdated mindset are one hurdle. The employees including doctors when removed due to bad service or absenteeism move court and easily get stay orders.
All this while patients wait miserably and helplessly for care, cats freely move in KTH while lack of hygiene is visible at various wards in one form or the other.
KTH spokesperson Farhad talks of a plan to suffocate the cats to force them to flee but then there are rats for which these cats come handy sometime.
A project of Rs7 million has been approved for the beautification and renovation of the hospital. These rodents and cats would also be tackled under this project, says retired Brig Fazle Akbar, who joined KTH as director in April this year.
Parking is an issue too. Every patient’s attendant has to pay Rs50, highest parking fee in the city, in the nearby private parking lot. The hospital has absolved itself from any responsibility as the parking area doesn’t belong to it, they say.
He admits that hospitals have gotten more autonomy under the law to hire its staff but they are still stuck here. Hiring is going on and hopefully would complete by end of December. Around 2,100 doctors, nurses and paramedics would be hired. The 1,300-bed hospital would be relying on 2,100 staffers to run three shifts.
Mr Akbar says that owing to shortage of staff they could not take patients in their complete care so they allow the attendants. He blames the culture too for this trend.
“I feel not only the patient but the entire family suffers more from the poor healthcare system than the disease itself,” says Mr Khan, who feels his father might not live long but feared for those numerous patients, who would be facing this kind of healthcare when they turn up here in sickness.
“Despite all these hurdles, qualified specialists will sit at casualty and intensive care units for 24-hour. Quality assurance department is set up for the first time to look into hygiene and other such things. Some new departments are also going to be established and strengthened and services would be provided for just Rs10,” says Prof Muqeem.
However, the medical director himself wonders why despite financial resources, qualified staff and all facilities the public sector hospitals are not providing satisfactory services to people. “The scenario is not changing,” he admits.