Islamabad - Hasnat Farooq is a clerical staff member in a government organisation. He felt pain in his chest that became more severe. He was taken to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) hospital where he was admitted after being diagnosed with a cardiac arrest.

As the news spread, all members of his family started gathering in the hospital. Almost every relative who was near, reached to see him. After a few hours, some attendants had left, but many of them stayed there.  Same is the case with every other patient admitted in the hospital when it comes to the number of attendants.

In our society, the number of attendants with a patient is usually high. Attendants with patients in the hospitals are incontrovertible reality and they are socially and ethically bound to visit their loved ones during such times.

Patients and their attendants pass through tough time of their lives at the hospitals, but the greater number of persons increases the troubles for hospital administration as well.

The PIMS and Polyclinic are the only two government hospitals in the capital having approximately 1,200 beds each. Both of the hospitals are bearing the burden of patients from the twin cities as well as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and parts of Punjab province.

The two hospitals actually cater to the needs of an entire region with a population of over 40 million. Attendants who come with patients to PIMS and Polyclinic from far-off areas fail to find a place near these hospitals as hotels and rest-houses are too expensive to stay. They are left with a single choice to take shelter under the trees and shades and face many hardships in treatment of their loves ones.  The attendants with the patients feel dual pain, for their loved ones in the hospital and the misery of accommodation.

“My sister is fighting hepatitis and we are here since a week now. In day, we can go inside to see her, but in the night, we have to sleep under shades in this cold because there is no accommodation facility for the attendants. We came from Fateh Jang,” Junaid, who was making preparations to sleep under the shade of a canteen in PIMS, said.

“My mother is admitted in surgical ward for the last one month. I have no place to hide in this cold but this shade,” said Noman, who had come from Muzaffarabad to the PIMS.

“My two-year-old son was diagnosed with typhoid and we are here for the last five days. There is no facility of shelter in the hospital and it is hard to sleep outside in this cold,” Raheel, who came to Polyclinic from Rawat, said. “My wife is admitted here since one month. We came from Gilgit-Baltistan. This is very hard to sleep outside but I have no other choice. I can’t leave my wife alone,” said Farrukh at the Polyclinic.

Temperature at the time when comments were obtained for this feature was as low as 5 degrees centigrade.

“Our project for accommodation of attendants is about to complete next week. We are working on it but our social values are intensifying the issue. There are 3 to 5 attendants with each admitted patient and it is not possible to accommodate all of them. Secondly, if we build large infrastructure for accommodation of attendants, many gypsies also start living there as attendants. Jinnah Hospital Karachi started accommodation facility for attendants in the past and they faced the same problem. We can accommodate one or two attendants with each patient but we do not have resources to hosts full families as attendants,” Dr Altaf Hussain Qureshi, the PIMS administrator, narrated.

We have to change our social conduct with regard to visiting or attending patients at hospitals. On the other hand, government has to look into this matter as it is very painful to see the attendants sleeping in six degrees centigrade in the federal capital.

–The writer is a freelance contributor