Islamabad - Availability of fair and better medical facilities in government hospitals has always remained a dream for the poor in the country but now shortage of beds is adding to the miseries of patients even in the federal capital.

“You are blessed if you get a bed and you are a ward patient,” said Mohammad Rafique, an attendant to his relative admitted in Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS).

His uncle Muhammad Azam* cannot talk because of the oxygen mask. “He is not comfortable on the stretcher,” Rafique explains the condition of his uncle.

Azam was shifted to PIMS from Nowshera after suffering a brain haemorrhage. Though his life was saved after being examined in the emergency department but later his family had to struggle to get him admitted in the ward because it was already filled with patients.

Because of his critical medical condition, doctors did not discharge him. He had to be adjusted on the extra bed set outside the ward and became a ‘stretcher patient.’

But he is not alone there. Around 10 more stretcher patients are also there who failed in getting a place inside the ward.

According to Rafique, if you are under the title of a ‘stretcher patient,’ automatically you are not on the priority list of medical examination.

“Patients in a room, a ward and on a stretcher have different status and doctors examine them in the ascending order,” he complained.

PIMS and Polyclinic are the biggest medical facilities in the federal capital providing treatment to thousands of patients on a daily basis.

According to an estimate around 8,000 patients, local and from other provinces, daily visit PIMS while around 3,000 patients get treatment at Polyclinic.

Ministry of Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) following the directions of prime minister had announced last year to double the capacity of PIMS and extend the Polyclinic hospital.

Seeing the influx of patients visiting federal capital hospitals, government had also announced to build five new hospitals to reduce the burden on the two existing medical facilities.

“Till the completion of the projects, patients have to suffer on stretcher in galleries,” said a doctor on the condition of anonymity.

According to him the situation is worst in hospitals as oxygen cylinders are fixed outside wards around reception desks and patients asking for doctors.

“We usually have to request people, sometimes who bring their loved ones in a critical condition, to shift the patient to another hospital instead of struggling for a stretcher because it will reduce the chances of survival,” said doctor.

There are around 10 sub-specialties at PIMS and almost every ward, specifically medical and general surgery, is seen filled with stretcher patients.

“This overburden affects the efficiency of doctors but every patient in the hospital comes under monitoring of the doctor,” said official.

Around 40 per cent of the people visiting the federal capital hospitals daily come from twin cities while 60 per cent from other provinces, majorly Khyber-PakhtuKhwa and Punjab.

Meanwhile, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University Vice Chancellor Dr Javed Akram while talking to The Nation said that hospital is facing shortage of beds.

“There are around 1,200 beds while the number of patients is nearly 4,000 so administration has to make arrangements because it is not possible to return the patient from hospital,” he said.

Patients from Afghanistan also come here, he said.

He stated that the hospital had received 500 stretchers as donation which are mostly found filled with patients.

However, he denied the complaints of less priority given to patients on stretcher.

“A patient is examined according to his condition not where he is lying,” Dr Akram said.

Meanwhile, he also stated that sometimes stretchers are also not available and a doctor has to examine the patient on wheel chair.

“Rush of patients leads to this issue where people have to suffer. It could be solved by building new hospitals,” he said.

However, Polyclinic spokesperson Dr Imtiaz disagreed with the title ‘stretcher patient’ and said patients are adjusted in hospital with all available facilities.

“When there is no bed and patient has to be admitted the administration is left with no other option but to set a bed or a stretcher outside the ward to give him treatment,” he said.

He stated that in the case of non-availability of a bed, the patient is treated on a stretcher or sometimes ‘doubling’ (two patients on single) is seen but it all happens because of lack of facilities.

“This is not appreciable but doctors have to manage it,” he said.

He also stated that a patient’s treatment depends on his ‘seriousness’ and not where he is admitted.

“More hospitals and facilities can reduce the miseries of the patients,” he said.

However, Rafique is not satisfied with the treatment of his uncle at stretcher.

 “Instead of improvement, the day will come when stretchers will also not be available and poor will be treated on the floor,” he said. 

—- *Name had been changed to protect identity-