KP health reforms fail to provide relief to patients

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PESHAWAR: Despite tall claims of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) government for revolutionizing health sector in the province, the poor citizens face countless hardships ranging from administration’s mismanagement to doctors’ inhuman behaviors while accessing basic health needs at the government hospitals.

The poor citizens who cannot afford to visit specialists at their private clinics, they prefer visiting them at government hospitals. However, this access is not easy.

Anila Nayab, 24, visited Naseerullah Babar Memorial Hospital in Peshawar for routine checkup. Despite her all apprehensions, she tells that she was forced by the physicians to get her all laboratory screening done from a private facility of his choice, despite the fact that the hospital owns one.

Anila Nayab, a local citizen of Peshawar, KP while talking to Apni Awaz.

Nayab tells Apni Awaz that her old experience with the government hospitals in Peshawar is terrible as the screening facilities are not equipped with appropriate and functional equipment. They also lack in trained and able technicians. “Based on worst experiences, I prefer visiting doctors at their private clinics where treatment is satisfactory”, Nayab says, adding that it is not possible for every citizens, especially those who lived below poverty line and solely depend on public health facilities, they cannot afford seeing specialists privately. She says that the health facilities that KP government promised to provide to its citizens in its party manifesto, it failed to deliver. In some cases, the resources are there, however, the management is corrupt, which again hinders in the way of accessing health facilities at government hospitals in KP.

Additionally, Nayab is not happy with the behaviors of public hospitals’ doctors who would treat their patients as they are third class citizens. However, the same doctors would be treating them at their private clinics in cordially.

“This difference in their behaviors works as a tool for patients who feel compelled to visit doctors at their private clinics”, Nayab claims.

It is not an isolated story of Nayab who expresses negatively about KP health sector, but majority of the patients who regularly visit government hospitals complain about inappropriate behaviors of physicians and the poor health facilities.

Sumbal is a resident of Warsak Road who shares a similar experience with Apni Awaz tells she visited KP’s most modern and the largest health facility, the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) in Peshawar. Her physician during routine examination prescribed her for screenings and instructed her to bring reports at follow up visit. Sumbal says that it turned out a nightmare as the laboratory staff kept her stranded for 10 hours. Additionally, she had to wait for the results for few days and the public dealing of the technicians was another headache.

This scribe took up Sumbal’s case with the Manager Outpatient Department, Zubair Bhatti, who responded that on daily basis around 5,200 patients are treated in the hospital. He complained that the doctors are overburdened, but the patients will never consider the scarcity of resources and other shortcomings as an issue.

“We receive similar complaints on daily basis, however, we do not have any mechanism to compile them and follow up with relevant doctors”, Bhatti informs.

He says it is true that doctors’ behaviors in several cases are unacceptable, but it is not intentional. Definitely, there is something wrong from other side as well. He says that in many cases, the attendants would insist on admitting their patients, however, doctors decide after evaluating every single case. If they decide contrary to attendants’ wishes, a conflict arises, and both the treating physician and the attendants go harsh. Bhatti, however, says that the hospital administration is paying serious attention to the issue of doctors’ misbehavior towards patients, and hopefully the situation will improve.

Assistant Manager Media, Muhammad, while talking to Apni Awaz.

“All senior and junior doctors and facilitating staff of LRH mandatorily attend weekly classes on mannerism and public dealing where they are taught about the psychology of patients and their attendants”, the Assistant Manager Media, Muhammad Asim informs Apni Awaz.

Further talking on this issue, Muhammad informs that although they do not keep track of the complaints, however, in one of similar complaints a senior physician was taken to the task. He said a resident of Dir brought his daughter to a senior physician and developed a conflict with him. Upon investigation, the physician was found guilty, who was later asked to tender apology. “Whenever there are repeated complaints against any physician, strict monitoring and investigations are carried out. In worst cases, the physicians had been issued show cause notices with strict disciplinary actions ensured including deduction from salaries, and increments, etc.”, Muhammad informs.

Dr. Sajad Ahmed, while talking to Apni Awaz.

Commenting on the issue of dissatisfactory  facilities in government hospitals, Assistant Professor KhyberCollege of Dentistry, Dr. Sajad Ahmed says the influx of patients in government hospitals is quite high, and due to scarcity of resources including trained doctors and other supporting staff, provision of 100 percent health facilities is almost impossible. Dr. Ahmad who also runs his private clinic further says he only gives appointments to maximum six patients a day because he has to carry out detailed investigations on each patient, and also satisfy them psychologically.

On the issue of monitoring of hospital in the province, Deputy Director Health department Ansar Khilji tells Apni Awaz that monitoring teams work at the district level who frequently visit health facilities at each KP district hospitals in addition to complaints they receive from complainants.

“All complaints are properly recorded and reported to the secretary health. Strict actions are also ensured against the culprits”, Khilji claims.

It is pertinent to note that the KP government allocates huge budgetary allocations for health sector every year. However, in 2017-18, ,the health department lapse almost half of its funds due to their negligence.

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