KARACHI: It’s hard to imagine that a man over 70 years old with a history of heart and severe pain cannot find a single hospital among the many health service units in a large metropolitan city that will receive him for treatment. But, Mohammad Shahid Saeed has just been through a traumatic experience like that.
He remembers how he took his elderly uncle from one private hospital to another hospital in North Nazimabad for emergency treatment earlier this month but in vain. The 74-year-old man, who underwent open heart surgery about 11 years ago, died at home last week.
“It was midnight on April 6 when he began to feel unwell,” he said. “We first took him to one of the biggest hospitals in North Nazimabad. They [hospital management] even stopped him from getting out of the car and asked us to take him to a government hospital where he would first undergo a coronavirus test and then be referred to the relevant hospital. We beg them to at least check their pulse, blood pressure or do an EKG. They did not listen and we returned home. “
With locks and obstacles everywhere, he then visited two more hospitals and finally returned home empty-handed.
After two days, he said, the family managed to get an appointment from a cardiologist, who suggested that patients be treated immediately in special health facilities. But the family was not fortunate enough to take him to a public or private hospital for much needed care. All hospitals, said Saeed, denied he was in and asked to wait for the situation to return to normal.
Private hospitals refuse entry, care for patients with non-communicable diseases
“Last week he suffered a heart attack and died. The family was in a state of shock and felt guilty for not offering care and care to him. But it is not their fault. “It’s a system that has disappointed all of us,” he said.
The focus on Covid-19 pushes the health system to its limits
Saeed and his family’s experience reflects how the provincial health system, which is expected to add value in its regular capacity and perform more than normal amid the challenges of the coronavirus, is rapidly collapsing and has caused hundreds of thousands of non-communicable diseases patients without treatment.
Dozens of critically ill people have died over the past month because they all failed to receive medical advice and procedures as well as much needed interventions, health officials and experts agreed.
Amid the growing number of corona virus patients, the city is on the brink of another crisis where hundreds of thousands of disease patients other than Covid-19 are left without routine care because public and private hospitals have largely closed their doors to patients, even denying they are urgently needed in. and postpone the operations and procedures that they really need.
Karachi people in every neighborhood experience a health system that is rapidly shrinking. There are dozens of hospitals in each district where people don’t get medical treatment. Shaheen Aziz in Korangi had similar experiences but her teenage daughter was fortunate enough to survive despite being refused treatment and being treated by three hospitals.
“He has had a serious problem over the past month. Doctors in early March recommended an endoscopic procedure, “he said of his 19-year-old daughter.
“When we planned and made arrangements for treatment including endoscopy according to the doctor’s advice, the situation began to deteriorate. It took us three weeks to complete the required procedure. It causes us so much stress and money, “he said.
However, Marghoob Hussain’s wife was not that lucky. He was advised to undergo heart surgery in the second week of March but could not get a date for this procedure.
“When there was no call from the hospital, I finally met a senior official from the National Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (NICVD) through a friend’s connection. But, I was told that there was no surgery at the hospital. On April 17, he suffered a fatal heart attack and died, “he said.
Many health facilities, especially in the private sector, have also suspended their facilities dialysis service leaving the fate of thousands of critical patients in danger. In addition to emergency services and admissions, many hospitals also reschedule their medical procedures and operations.
SHCC is not aware of the situation
The Sindh Health Commission (SHCC) seems satisfied and seems to see “business as usual” in hospitals throughout the city.
SHCC Head Dr Minhaj A. Qidwai said: “We have advised private hospitals to close their OPD. Hospitals have closed their OPD but other areas of medical services are open as usual. There are no complaints. If there is a hospital that refuses treatment or goes into any patient, it should not be done. But we have not seen anything like this. If anyone has a complaint, he must contact us and we will resolve it according to the rules set. “
However, the situation on the ground seemed completely different. This is not just the experience of disease patients other than Covid-19 and their families. Experts and health workers also gave testimony about this problem.
“Unfortunately, people are not entertained by private hospitals,” Dr. Seemin Jamali, executive director of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC), the city’s main public tertiary care facility, said. “We have experienced that many hospitals refer patients to JPMC. We are a public sector hospital and we don’t reject it. I am truly afraid where all these patients go if we get too close to them. We have kept our OPD open even during the pandemic. “
Despite ignorance expressed by the SHCC and key stakeholders in the health sector, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah seems to be aware of the situation that arises.
In an informal chat with a group of journalists at CM House, he agreed with the concern shared by media people that Covid-19’s “stigma” kept doctors and health workers away from their professional duties.
He fears an increase in the number of deaths from non-communicable diseases among critical and elderly patients if the situation continues.
Dr Qaiser Sajjad of the Pakistan Medical Association “begged” doctors to show courage and get out of their homes and do their work. “We have heard that hospitals refuse treatment and ask people to undergo the Covid-19 test first before getting an entry permit or treatment. This is not fair.”
Published in Dawn, April 22, 2020
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