By Umer Tariq
Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif on Monday suspended Medical Superintendent (MS) of Lahore General Hospital (LGH) and duty AMS while expressing shock over lack of medical facilities provided to patients at Lahore General Hospital.
The chief minister took action over delay in operations, poor sanitary arrangements, dirty bed sheets, uncovered switch board of electricity, poor state of washrooms and non-wearing of overall by the doctors on duty and issued orders for immediate suspension.
However, the suspension of the MS and other staff raises a very valid question; do these suspensions result in provision of better facilities and proper sanitary arrangements? The answer is a resounding NO. This is not the first time that the Punjab Chief Minister has suspended the MS of Lahore General Hospital or expressed ‘shock’ over the lack of facilities.
In March 2010, the Chief Minister ordered immediate suspension of LGH’s MS for unnecessary delay in the installation of a diagnostic machine, unhygienic condition and failure to address the complaints of patients.
In September 2011, the Chief Minister visited LGH and on the complaint of patients told the MS to improve treatment facilities for the patients in the hospital. He warned that in case of any complaint during his next visit, the MS would be suspended.
In October 2011, a month after his previous visit the Chief Minister visited LGH once again and this time directed immediate installation of air-conditioner in medical ward of the hospital. In February 2013 the Chief Minister took notice of a news report and sought report from the administration of LGH regarding the charging of fee in the car and motorcycle parking stand.
In April 2014, Adviser to Chief Minister on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique while addressing an event at LGH said the government was committed to ensuring provision of modern healthcare facilities to people.
In May 2014, the Chief Minister was once again in LGH, this time he attended a seminar on Thalassemia and in November of the same year the Chief Minister was once again at LGH to inquire about the provision of facilities provided to the victims of Wagah blast.
Did the above mentioned visits of the Chief Minister result in provision of quality health facilities to the citizens? The answer is once again a resounding NO. In November 2014 the Secretary Health Punjab suspended the LGH MS for negligence in duties and administrative matters following the death of a patient. The suspension which many alleged was merely for ‘media consumption’ resulted in a strike by paramedics and other employees of LGH at the institute. This was followed by the latest round of suspensions this week.
Despite the numerous visits by the Chief Minister and other government officials the situation in the hospitals is more or less the same, at every visit promises are made to improve the situation, some of the staff is suspended and the same cycle is repeated after the interval of a few months. The suspensions/visits and the persistent problems and suffering of the patients suggest that the ‘suspension’ or the ‘taking notice’ modus operandi of the Chief Minister Punjab is flawed. It would be much better if there is a system in place where the complaints of the patients don’t need the Chief Minister’s visit to be heard.
The Chief Minister was surprised at the unhygienic condition and the failure of administration to address the complaints during his visit to LGH in 2010. Six years later in August 2016 the Chief Minister was once again shocked at the lack of medical facilities provided to patients. Were six years not enough to fix even the basic problems faced by the patients at LGH?
*The writer is the Deputy Editor of Daily The Patriot.