Punjab health dept continues ignoring women giving birth on streets

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LAHORE: A growing population and dismal performance of the government has resulted in numerous problems being created for the common citizen. Due to subpar policies especially in the healthcare department, hospitals in Punjab face a severe crisis in terms of low-quality medical aid being provided.

The healthcare conditions have worsened to an extent that numerous cases of women going into labor outside the hospital gates and giving birth on the steps of hospital canteens have been witnessed. Not only this but even within the hospitals, insensitivity of the doctors and lack of medical resources result in more than one patient sharing a bed to receive medical aid.

According to recent statistics, the number of public hospitals in the entire country is only 1,167 whereas 5,695 dispensaries, 5,464 Basic Health Units (BHU) and 733 maternity and child health centres are operational. These facilities have a combined bed capacity of 118,869 which clearly shows the increasing gap between the demand for health care services and its provision by the government.

What is even worse is the fact that these medical facilities do not provide satisfactory services to the citizens and many of the international healthcare standards are not being adhered to. BHUs suffer from a severe lack of trained medical staff. Instances of dispensers filling in for resident doctors have started occurring frequently and there have been reports of doctors on public duty refusing to see patients during the prescribed hospital hours.  The doctors, looking to maximize their earnings, encourage patients to visit them for consultation in their private clinics.

The situation in public hospitals is so unscrupulous that bringing an emergency case to the hospital, especially at night is bound to bring tragedy for the family. In the absence of on-call doctors, the untrained medical staff takes over the emergency cases which often result in undesirable outcomes for the patients.

Talking specifically about Lahore, for a population of 0.53 million women, there are only 1000 beds in all the gynaecology departments of the public hospitals. The inability of the health department in implementing the Specialised Healthcare Referral System has also resulted in a worse situation for the mother and child health care in public hospitals. Ganga Ram Hospital, Lady Aitchison Hospital and Services Hospital all suffer from low staff count and senior positions remain vacant for a long stretch of time.

It is imperative for the provincial government to come up with comprehensive health care policy that not only caters to the problems of missing staff and corruption in the procurement of medicines and machinery but also ensures the provision of high-quality healthcare facilities to all citizens regardless of their position in society.