Being a Patient in a Pakistani Hospital

Posted on January 8, 2008
Filed Under >Syed Ahsan Ali, Economy & Development
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Syed Ahsan Ali

Being a chronic cardiac patient, I get severe pneumonia often which usually takes me to one of the largest private health facility in the largest city of Pakistan. I have been to the same hospital three times in the past five years so I understand how things operate there. But this time, things looked a lot more disturbing. This forced me to think that if such are the conditions in the best private hospital, then how bad they could be in the public sector hospitals.

I got ‘shifa‘ (health) in the same private hospital so I do not want to sound like a thankless soul. They have been fairly nice, cooperative, caring and professionals to help me out of my suffering but at the same time I noticed incidents of negligence that have left me disturbed.

For example, I saw an old lady-patient slipping and falling to the ground through the hands of physiotherapists. I saw a highly critical dengue-fever patient waiting to be taken to ICU for 5 painstakingly long hours. I also witnessed doctors mistreating an old lady who was completely devastated with her husband’s sickness after losing her 20 year old son few months back. Let’s get to the detail of all these incidents separately so this piece becomes a eye-witness account.

The old lady got floored by the mistake of a trained and stern-looking doctor, not by any untrained nursing staff. The old lady must have been at least 70 years old. She was on the dialysis and could neither see or hear properly. Once she got better after going through dialysis, the physiotherapist left her grounded during physiotherapy session. It was an awful feeling for the family as for all those who saw it. It is a pity that after paying whatever they ask for, a patient gets such poor treatment by hospital staff.

Similarly another case of maltreatment happened in front of my eyes. A patient hailing from NWFP who needed emergency care after a horrible night of profuse bleeding due to dengue fever was delayed by few hours because there was no one in the staff willing to take him there. The routine shift of 8 hours was near its end and the staff kept waiting for their next shift to come and perform their duty otherwise they had to include that task in their sheet. It was painful to see nurses and staff going through their routine tasks gingerly and delaying shifting one critical patient just because they had other important chores to do. The patient’s family was not too comfortable with Urdu or English language so they were looking helplessly at the staff with tears in their eyes waiting for some divine help to arrive.

Another incident that brought tears in my and my sister’s eyes was when we saw a 60 year old lady running after a 30 year old lady doctor for the prescription so that the old lady could go outside and arrange for the medicine herself. The old lady did not know that it is hospital’s responsibility to arrange for any kind of medication but that ruthless doctor had other important tasks at hand and she didn’t bother to tell that poor lady that it is not a public hospital where one needs to run after doctors for prescriptions and medications. That old lady did not have enough money to wait for her husband’s complete treatment, did not have attendants to stay with her husband overnight. She also had lost her 20 year old son in an accident recently and didn’t have enough tears left in her eyes to shed over her husband.

I understand that these incidents may be exceptions and that most people, at this hospital at least, are treated much better. But even as exceptions, these incidents seem unacceptable.

All this happened at one of the most illustrious and respected hospitals in the country. One that is supposed to be as good as any in the world. It made me wonder what could happen to the poor patients in public hospitals like at Jinnah, Civil, Abbassi Shaheed hospital suffering from dengue fever, pneumonia, malaria, food poisoning and all sorts of terrible diseases amidst the careless, non-professional and stone-hearted staff when all this can happen in the topmost private sector hospital?

I think about it and first I thank my God I have been given enough to be able to afford a private hospital and secondly I pray that hopefully we would solve our major problems such as wardi (uniform), jamhooriat (democracy), and azaad adlia (independent judiciary) and look towards our other problems such as health, education, and poverty – problems that beset all Pakistanis everyday.

21 responses to “Being a Patient in a Pakistani Hospital”

  1. Watan Aziz says:

    There are close to 100 specialties and sub-specialties that are now accredited with either degreed programs or certification programs. Nutrition, rehab, therapy, etc. etc. come to mind.

    The current medical care system all over the world is doctor centric. In advanced economies the scale and the delivery are matched evenly.

    The lesser developed, like Pakistan, lack resources at minimum and administrative will on the other side at all levels. Resulting in poor medical care.

    But should medical care be equated with presence of a doctor? Now I am not talking about advanced conditions, needs or surgery. That will require proper medical and experienced medical care.

    I am merely asking, can we remove the need of the doctor, get to the basics, add advanced technology of remote hookups, digitized xrays, etc. etc. and deliver low cost healthcare to more people at cheaper cost?

    Can we pour resources in setting up more health clinics than hospitals?

    Can we provide water, power and sanitation and bypass the fixed structural model that was developed over last 50 years but has failed to deliver either the quality or the quantity?

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