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EDITORIAL: A common sight in government-run hospitals of Lahore is rickety wheelchairs, lifts that do not work, bad sanitary conditions, and poor patients running around to buy medicines for which they have no money. Yet these hospitals have incurred liabilities to the tune of Rs 10 billion.

They have no funds for purchase, repair and maintenance of medical/surgical equipment, lifts, air conditioners, janitorial and security services. How dire is the situation can be gauged from the example of Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), where reportedly out of eight operation theatres only two are currently functional. This is a hospital where patients have to wait for months on end for different medical procedures.

These depressing conditions are the result of skewed government priorities. Notably, in January the then caretaker government’s unbudgeted expenditure in the fiscal year 2023-24 was a whopping Rs 115 billion. Ostensibly, most of it went into public sector development projects.

If the hospitals had any share in it, is not known; what is known is that most of their existing resources were spent by the caretaker chief minister, Mohsin Naqvi, on various showcase projects at the cost of urgent patient needs. At the PIC, for instance, a brand new lab was constructed which he inaugurated by unveiling a plaque inscribed with his name. In the General Hospital, the surgical emergency built a month earlier was renovated at considerable cost.

Same is the story of Services Hospital and the Mayo Hospital, which bears the highest financial liability at Rs 3 billion. Making a bad situation worse is misuse of funds. As a press report points out that instead of buying medicines in bulk, a common practice is to procure them through local purchase and petty purchase system at exorbitant rates. Administration officials, supervisors and storekeepers seem to prefer this purchase method for the monetary benefits it brings them.

Infrastructure expansions and renovations are important, indeed. But the primary concern of all must be patient welfare. There should be no compromise on acquisition and maintenance of vital medical/surgical equipment as well as other basic services.

Despite financial constraints, things can change for the better if those in charge focus on checking wastage and proper utilisation of whatever funds they have access to. Those in position to make a difference know, of course, what needs to be done; unfortunately, considerations of self-interest tend to trump their sense of duty towards ailing humanity.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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KU Apr 05, 2024 02:18pm
Every public hospital paints a picture of war-torn conditions, every day. Avg patients at 5k plus at each hospital, medical facilities not available, is this the celebrated health sector by govts?
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