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Chitral`s health services marred by staff shortage

By Sher Alam Shinwari 2018-08-19
Despite being a peaceful district and valley of beautiful mountain peaks, passes and rivers, Chitral is short of health facilities because the authorities concerned have failed to provide the required number of doctors and the required equipment to the district headquarters hospital.

According to data collected from district headquarters hospital in Chitral, of 116 sanctioned posts, only 52 have been filled and about 64 important positions have been vacant for the last many years. Most work at the hospital is being carried out by technicians, say locals.

Only one gynaecologist performs duty for the entire district round the clock. Similarly, the hospital has no cardiologist while ratio of cardio patients is the highestin the district. The hospital receives 500 patients and for them only two dialysis machines are available.

Being a crowded facility, the hospital receives around 800 patients daily from far flung areas of the district.

The vacant posts include that of gynaecologist, cardiologist, ENT specialist, child specialist, surgical specialist, psychotherapist, anaesthetist,dentalsurgeon and skin specialist.

A senior official at the DHQ hospital told this scribe that around 60 doctors, who were deputed to report to the hospital for their duty, had withdrawn their services and got themselves transferred to other hospitals. He said that lack of qualified doctors created numerous problems due to which people suffered a lot.

`Despite repeated requests, no step has been taken by the health department. Even serious cases are being treated by technicians as there is no other option,` said the official. He said that DHQ hospital was upgraded in 1985 that was then consisted of 100 beds and then it became a 200-bed facility.

A senior doctor at the DHQ hospital, while requesting anonymity, told this scribe that patients, especially womenand children, faced many problems owing to non-availability of specialist doctors.

He said that machinery worth millions of rupees was getting rustic as most of the machines remained dysfunctional for a long time. He said that it was unfortunate that government failed to force the appointed doctors and specialists to perform duty at the hospital till an alternate was found.

`This attitude only harms poor people, who can`t afford to go to private clinics. The chief justice of Pakistan has been appealed to take notice of this bizarre situation. Why should poor people suffer and for how long at the hands of apathy of the so-called messiahs,` he said.

The available record shows that the hospital received and treated 10,590 cardiac patients from 2016 to July 2018.

Health experts cited different reasons behind the increasing trend of cardiac disease in the district.

Dr Nisar, a senior causality medical officer at the hospital, said that most people were in the habit of sipping Trup Chai (a salted tea) and eating cloistral laden food including Ghalmandi and Sheershepek prepared from pure local ghee, cheese and milk.

He said that those were traditional beverage and food items. `In the past people used to travel a lot and did lot of hard work but now-a-days using salted teaandheavyfood cause severalhealth complications for the locals. There is no awareness on health issues among people, so sticking to old traditions leads them to serious health threats,` said Dr Nisar.

Dr Sultana, a doctor from Zargarand village, told this scribe that only four doctors were posted in the hospital and being local she was required to perform duty round the clock. She said that women were the worst sufferers due to shortage of lady doctors in the Chitral district.

`I receive patients in large number, some from far flung localities. It becomes very difficult for me to giveindividual attention to every patient. At times, I leave behind my own family and rush to the hospital late in the night in order to treat a woman in serious condition,` she said.

Rahman Afridi, the medical superintendent of the hospital, when contacted, said that he assumed the post eight months ago and put up request for filling all the vacant positions and the required equipment at the hospital to health directorate. He said that he was hopeful of positive response from there.

`Since I have joined the post, I have not received any complaints regarding shortage of medicines or any other hardship being faced by patients. Our trained and experienced technicians perform duty according to the set SOPs when and wherever they are required. Serious patients are referred to Peshawar for quality treatment,` he said.

Mr Afridi said that all kinds of machines at the hospital were fully functional and not a single device had gone rustic. `I have personally checl(ed every single machine on the very first day of my duty. No issue of unclean environment is there as my staff tries its best to facilitate the patients in every possible manner,` he claimed.

Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali, the MNA-elect from NA-lin Chitral, said that he was aware of health issues in the district. `I know the health issues of my people. I will raise my voice to resolve all issues of my poor but honest people including that of health and education, he promised.

Mohammad Zubair, the additional secretary of health department, when contacted, said that around 600 vacant posts had been requisitioned to KP Public Service Commission and soon vacant positions in health department including that in Chitral DHQ would be filled.

`Local people are given preference to non-local officers so that they could perform duty in a befitting manner though it is not a legal requirement yet it is kept in mind to ensure better public healthcare,` he said.