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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Will Sindh government focus on upgrading health facilities across the province?

Sindh is facing several challenges due to bad governance. However, it is worth exploring if the Sindh government will focus on improving health facilities across the province after Sindh High Court has directed the government to do so.

In an important development, the Sindh High Court on Thursday directed the provincial secretary for health to come up with a detailed report on Feb 20 regarding the public hospitals to be repaired, upgrade of operation theatres and purchase of equipment for such medical facilities. The state of health facilities in Sindh is quite dismaying. The authorities are seemingly unconcerned to deal with widespread HIV and AIDs case across the province. Experts suggest the federal government’s intervention.

According to details, a two-judge SHC bench headed by Justice K.K. Agha also asked the health secretary to file a progress report about procurement of required equipment for the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) and said that it would not tolerate further delay on account of bureaucratic red tape since it was the fundamental right of the people to get adequate treatment with all necessary medical equipment.

The bench also called a progress report from the newly appointed medical superintendent of the Lyari General Hospital about the provision of machinery and equipment after rejecting a report which was not understandable.

Read more: Will the Federal Government take control of three Karachi hospitals?

In the last hearing, the bench had directed the provincial chief secretary, the secretary and the additional secretary of the finance department to appear in person to explain why a summary regarding equipment for the CHK had not been approved.

Secretary for planning and development Shaheen Mustafa Narejo submitted that there was no need for the summary regarding upgrade of operation theatres since the finance department had already released the funds and provided them to the health secretary.

According to the Program Manager of Sindh’s AIDS Control Program, Dr. Sikander Ali, the prime object for the spread of the virus was the reuse of syringes at local clinics and district health hospitals.

The health secretary informed the bench that tenders were to be opened on Jan 24 and the procurement of equipment for the CHK would be made in the shortest possible time. The CHK medical superintendent also filed a progress report about procurement of equipment.

The bench directed the investigating officer to ensure that the recommendations of the provincial task force for missing persons made in the case of a missing child must be carried out before the next hearing and called a progress report from the IO.

Earlier, the SHC had directed the provincial authorities to release funds to install equipment and facilities at the CHK to rectify the deficiencies highlighted in a judicial inquiry conducted on a directive of the SHC issued in October 2018 after health and hospital officials contended that the CCTV cameras were not working when a child went missing from the OPD.

Read more: Sindh Cabinet approved Bill to restore student unions, PPP deserves credit where it is due

The petitioner, Saba, moved the SHC in 2018 stating that she took her three-year-old son to the CHK for a check-up, but he went missing when she was busy in obtaining a token in the OPD.

Deteriorating health conditions in Sindh

A report by the Director-General (DG) Health, Sindh, Dr. Masood Solangi, on the spread of HIV in Larkana’s Rotodero district has revealed startling facts. According to the report, over 14,000 people in the Rotodero district were screened out of which 534 tested positive for the HIV virus.

Of these patients, 270 were female and 264 male. The age group distribution revealed the most affected age group was 2-5, years with 294 (55.05%) cases, followed by age group 6-15 years with 100 (18.7%) cases.

Read more: Sindh government is not failing: It has already failed, Miserably

According to the Program Manager of Sindh’s AIDS Control Program, Dr. Sikander Ali, the prime object for the spread of the virus was the reuse of syringes at local clinics and district health hospitals.

Dr. Masood Solangi further stated that screening is going on at THQ Hospital, Ratodero by SACP. It is feared that more cases of HIV may appear as the screening is going on. Experts opine that since the population is of a larger scale and fake doctors generally do not care about used or new syringes in the local hospital, it may cause a great loss.

Health Department and Health care commission with the support of the District Administration has sealed unauthorized laboratories, blood banks, and clinics, which are being run by quacks. “Soon we will Establish HIV/AIDs ART Treatment Center at Shaikh Zaid children Hospital Larkana,” said Dr. Solangi.

Medical experts believe this outbreak has been beneficial since it exposed the lack of awareness and recourses to deal with. “The only good thing about the outbreak has been that it laid bare the multiple flaws in the system that the government with the support of U.N. agencies needs to address,” said Dr. Fatima Mir, a pediatric infectious disease expert working at the Aga Khan University in Karachi. She was one of the first medical workers to help with the outbreak in Ratodero.

Read more: 84 Infants Died In Sindh: Where Is The Sindh Government?

“What the outbreak in Ratodero says about Pakistan’s health care is that infection control is poor or nonexistent. Pakistan’s health care system is now trying to integrate infection control as a formal part of the system,” Dr. Mir added.

Zaigham Khan, a development expert who writes a column for the newspaper The News, noted that Pakistan spends less than 1 percent of its G.D.P. on health care and that only one doctor is available for every 6,000 people, mostly concentrated in urban areas. “Pakistan is facing a full-blown public health crisis, mainly rooted in ineffective governance and dominance of special interests,” Mr. Khan said.

It is yet to be seen whether the Sindh government decides to upgrade health facilities in rural Sindh after the directions being passed by the SHC or it will continue to maintain its silence.