The Supreme Court (SC) has taken notice of the deaths of 22 infants in Sargodha’s District Headquarters (DHQ) Teaching hospital during the last one week, and sought a report from Punjab Health Department to be submitted within 48 hours. The three-member investigation committee formed by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has submitted its report, which finds Medial Superintendent Iqbal Sami responsible for negligent medical treatment – a charge that has been denied as it is yet to be ascertained whether the deaths were in fact caused by negligence and lack of facilities.

Of course, Mr Sami can be blamed for it all. He can be locked up for the rest of his life or even hanged in public; made to pay for the deaths of 22 infants one way or the other. But who will step forward to share the blame? Who ought to be in jail for the lack of facilities and staff at the hospital? Does the Punjab government take any responsibility for the tragedy? Perhaps someone ought to form a three-member committee to investigate Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s negligence on the health services front. It is highly unlikely that he will survive the first round of interrogation.

It is incidents such as these, which begin to make sense of the criticism surrounding the Punjab CM’s obsession with infrastructure development. No one is against building longer bridges, wider roads and deeper underpasses. Poor roads and lack of infrastructure leads to congestion, which means that an ambulance will take longer to reach the hospital, again resulting in preventable loss of life. Such binaries do little to help. The real issue here is ignoring one critical aspect of governance while being fixated and spending billions on another. When people find that there is only one hospital in their entire district, and that too is short of equipment and staff, and the government announces construction of a new road while doing absolutely nothing to fix the health issue, they find the ‘exciting’ development unpalatable. Punjab government’s performance with regards to health services is utterly disgraceful.

The allocation of funds to build and improve the condition of existing government-run hospitals is demonstrative of Shahbaz Sharif’s lack of interest and concern. Is it not true that only the poor go to government hospitals for treatment? Is it not true that nepotism, poor governance and incapability have plagued them for quite a while now? Is it also not true that the Punjab government has been in power for a while too now and is ultimately responsible for fixing the hospitals? The entire system is a wreck and there are no serious efforts being made to change that. If there is anyone who should be held accountable, it is the CM. Not just one MS, in one hospital, in one district, for one tragedy amongst the many that befall countless people throughout the province every day.