On January 2, 2017, a woman, identified as Zahra Bibi, suffering from a disease related to her lungs, died on the floor of Jinnah Hospital, Lahore. She passed away on the floor because the hospital management could not provide a bed to the ailing woman who succumbed to her disease that caused her death. It’s terribly bewildering to even imagine such a state of penury and helplessness where a person struggling with life and death cannot even find a bed in a major hospital in a country whose stock market recently crosses the 45,000-point milestone. What further aggravated the debilitating state of affairs is the realization that this is not the only nerve-shattering incident happening in a hospital in our country. Our hospitals, in general, display an acute sense of chaos, misery and destitution. It’s very common to see two patients lying on the same bed, cardiac patients being treated on wheelchairs solely because beds cannot be offered, overcrowded wards and lack of other related facilities. Anyhow, in the aftermath of the incident mentioned above, the MS of the hospital along with a few doctors got suspended. The question arises, were the MS or the doctors supposed to provide a bed, if there was no bed available at all? How can doctors manage to provide the facilities that are not available in the hospital in the first place? What can they do if there are already 110 patients in an emergency ward with 50 beds?

Doctors themselves are facing hundreds of challenges and straightened circumstances. They have security issues, job security issues, overload of work and salary and promotion related issues. It’s hard to imagine working in an environment where you experience helplessness at its peak. They deal with patients who don’t even have 500 rupees to spend on themselves, what to say of spending on the treatment of serious diseases. The imbalanced doctor-patient ratio further causes irritation, anxiety, fatigue and stress among the doctors who, in three to four hours, have to deal with eighty or more patients. The unavailability of proper machines, sanitary products and medicine adds insult to injury. Furthermore, is it easier to deal with a majority of suffering but uncouth patients utterly devoid of civic sense? Additionally, it essentially is a big challenge that normal patients, who only need primary care, overburden emergency rooms. Power dynamics, lesser salaries and lack of sanitation, are among other challenges.

It may be negligence on part of the doctors but basically it purely is an administrative flaw if no new government hospital has been made in Lahore in the previous 20 years. The situation is not very different in most of the other cities.

Blaming the doctors is not a solution to the problems. Blame-game never yields solutions. These everyday problems have become grim realities of our lives and we as a society need to honestly and empathetically resolve the issues. In this regard, the government must play its role as a messiah. 

In the initial ten days of the year 2017, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has announced 500 million rupees for the support and welfare of literary figures. He has also handed over 200 buses to school children in Islamabad. There are many other commendable projects that this government has initiated in the previous years, such as the Laptop scheme, PEEF scholarships and Metro and Orange Line projects, etc. As education, poverty and health are the mighty challenges being faced by Pakistan, it is indispensably required to concentrate more on the health sector. In this regard, government should help complete projects such as Surgical Tower, Mayo Hospital, Jubilee Town Project of Dentistry Hospital, Neuro-surgery Tower, and make them functional as early as possible. In addition, new hospitals should also be opened or the old hospitals should further be expanded.

OPDs should be open 24 hours, so that emergency wards may not be overburdened. For this purpose, the overall structure of primary, secondary and tertiary care should be upgraded and new doctors and nurses should be hired. Pakistan is the fourth largest country to provide doctors to the U.S. Similarly, due to fewer seats, doctors are migrating to other countries as well. Therefore, the number of seats must be increased to improve the system of healthcare and tackle the issue of brain-drain. There should be a properly defined service structure for the doctors; so that they may not face any uncertainty and discouragement even after doing FCPS. The gap between a doctor’s salary of around 1 lac rupees in KP and around 65 thousand in Punjab should also be bridged. The number of machines should be increased on an urgent basis. Quality medicines and more beds are also essentially needed; so that no Zara Bibi may suffer from a sense of heart-wrenching helplessness.