IT is an unfortunate reality in Pakistan that doctors and other health professionals often have to face the wrath of angry attendants in case of death or injury to a patient. A number of such ugly incidents have been reported from Sindh recently, prompting medical professionals to call for the highest offices in the country to intervene and protect them from such violence.
Addressing a press conference in Karachi on Friday, doctors belonging to the Pakistan Medical Association and the Ophthalmological Society of Pakistan demanded the prime minister, chief justice, army chief and Sindh chief minister initiate a judicial inquiry and bring elements involved in attacking medical professionals to book.
Giving details of the incidents, the doctors said a senior eye specialist at a private hospital in Karachi — said to be one of the few retina specialists left in Pakistan — was attacked by attendants after a procedure allegedly went awry, while doctors were also attacked in Dadu and Ghotki.
Medical negligence is a very serious matter, especially when the death of a patient or disability occurs. However, there can be no justification for attacking medical staff and ransacking hospitals. As doctors have rightly pointed out, protecting medical professionals and probing cases of medical negligence is the job of the Sindh Health Care Commission and its corresponding bodies in other provinces. However, medics say cases of violence are rising because the regulatory body is not doing its job. To prevent this situation from deteriorating, it must be made absolutely clear by the state that violence against health professionals will not be tolerated and that those involved will be punished.
Moreover, there should be a well-defined, transparent procedure if allegations of medical negligence do emerge, and doctors found guilty must be penalised. Already Pakistan faces a brain drain. If more doctors and other medical professionals decide to pack up and leave because they want a safer working environment, it will mean greater distress for this country’s fragile health sector.