Islamabad - The term ‘camping’ flashes a picturesque site in one’s mind where one can enjoy moments away from usual life routine, but in PIMS the tents are the refuge for attendants of patients.

Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) is the largest hospital in the federal capital and is equipped with modern medical facilities. According to an estimate, around 5,000 patients daily visit this hospital. The people from all across the country take their beloved ones to this hospital with the hope that they will bring back their relatives home healthy and alive.

Although people from far-flung areas give satisfactory views regarding medical services in the hospital, yet when the sun sets these attendants have to look for a shed, tree or any other place where they can spend the night.

Rehman Shah and Hikmat Shah, both residents of Charsadda, have shifted their ailing mother to PIMS. Their mother suffered from the attack of paralysis five days ago. Both brothers are daily wagers and cannot afford treatment of their mother in some private hospital.

“The hospital administration allows only one person in the ward during night and we have divided the shifts, one of us daily sleeps in lawn,” they said.

Thin blanket and a plastic rug, which can hardly provide cozy environment, is a blessing for them during night hours. “We are very poor, we cannot afford to buy a tent so the night outside is spent in open air watching towards the sky and praying for our mother,” said Rehman.

He said since the winter has begun, the nights are freezing and during the night the attendants are seen in lawns searching for the place where they can pass a few hours easily.

The government recently approved the up-gradation plan of PIMS with addition of the state-of-the-art facilities for patients.

The Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) approved the construction of new blocks in PIMS which will double the capacity of the hospital. Though the extension of the hospital will facilitate the patients better than before, nothing has been ensured for the poor attendants who come along with their patients and cannot afford to rent a place in the city for weeks.

Mohammad Yasir has come from Mandi Bahauddin, a city around 170 kilometres away from the federal capital. Yasir’s brother is admitted in the surgical ward whose backbone got fractured when he met an accident on place of his work.

“I and my cousin brought our patient two weeks ago to the hospital. Doctors gave us no timeframe for the operation and we are staying with our brother,” he said.

He said he doesn’t have any relative here in the city and affording a room in hotel is expensive for him, so he has set a tent under a tree in the hospital. “It is difficult to live in the tent but I have no other option,” he said.

Yasir told The Nation that his mobile phone got misplaced in initial nights when he stayed in the lawn of the hospital without any tent. “Mobile phone theft is a common practice here in nights. A lot of people complain about it when they get up in the morning,” said Yasir.

He said when the temperature falls in night, attendants’ sufferings are escalated, as some even don’t have blankets. In such situations other people help and cooperate with one another, he added.

“All the verandas, parking sheds, trees, walking tracks and roads are filled with people who have no other place to sleep at night,” he said. Fences of hospital lawns, which are filled with blankets, rugs and washed dresses, tell the story that some of the families have made the hospital their second home.

Shaheen Bibi collecting the dry clothes from the fence told The Nation that her sister has been admitted in the hospital for the last three weeks and they decided to set a tent in the hospital as it was not possible to move back to hometown in Jhang until doctors discharge her sister.

“Our tent is small and only one person can sleep in it. We are facing very critical time and are praying for relief from this situation,” she said.

Shaheen said the people who don’t have tents put their blankets on fence to dry them because the dew makes everything wet in the night.

“Staying here is very difficult for even men, while for women this situation is miserable,” she said.

Another attendant, Mohammad Usman from Gujar Khan said to The Nation that setting a tent is much better option if you have less money and more relatives.

He said one attendant cannot spend time with the patient 24 hours. And if one tries to sleep inside the ward, gallery staff throws water on floors to keep attendants away.

Though tents resolve the residence issue, a person with less income cannot afford to eat from the canteen daily.

Replying to a query, he said, “Prosperous people daily send eatables for the attendants and hundreds of people take benefit from this activity to lower the burden on their pockets.”

Talking to The Nation, Vice-Chancellor Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University said that hospital administration never puts any restrictions on the stay of attendants in the vicinity of the hospital.

“It is completely a social issue. The people are the poor and cannot go anywhere else, so administration never questions about their tents in the premises of the hospital,” he said.

Meanwhile, he also stated that PIMS has constructed an inn for the attendants to facilitate the people who come from far-off areas and have no place to stay. “The inn can accommodate around 20 families,” he added.