ISLAMABAD: Lack of essential medical equipment is resulting in thousands of preventable deaths in both the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as there is no Computerised Tomography (CT scan) machine for at least 31 million people living in 23 districts of these two provinces.
According to certified data collected from 23 districts of the two provinces through their respective Right to Information (RTI) laws, a large number of oxygen cylinders, ultrasound, ECG and CT scan and X-Ray machines are non-functional in their district headquarters (DHQ) hospitals, causing severe problems for the poor residents of these areas who are unable to afford private medical care.
The certified information also made shocking revelation that district headquarters (DHQ) hospital of Pakpattan, which caters to over 1.2 million people, does not have even a single functional X-ray machine.
The information requests were filed to all the districts of Punjab and KP by Zahid Abdullah, Programme Manager Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), but only 21 out of 36 DHQs in the Punjab and seven out of 27 DHQs of KP responded to the request under the RTI law.
Under the international trauma guidelines, each district hospital must have a CT scan machine available to examine head injuries to the victims of accidents and emergencies. A CT scan machine is used to quickly examine the people who may have internal injuries from car accidents or other types of trauma. Talking to The News, Associate Professor of Radiology at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Science (PIMS), Dr Ayesha Isani Majeed, said the CT scan is absolutely essential for district headquarters hospitals as it can help in diagnoses of head injuries and other serious complications in emergency cases.
“The absence of these machines can be life-threatening as it is not possible for doctors to provide emergency care to trauma victims without proper diagnoses,” Isani, who is also the deputy executive director at the PIMS, added.
Commenting on the absence of an X-ray machine in Pakpattan, she said: “This is absolutely shocking for me. It is criminal negligence on the part of healthcare managers in that district as X-ray is the basic need for treatment of majority of patients.”
According to certified data, none of the seven District Headquarter Hospitals of KP that shared information under the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013 has CT scan machines for a population of over five million, according to the 1998 Census. These districts are Mansehra, Laki Marwat, Kohat, Charsadda, Swabi, Karak and Hangu.
In the Punjab, 16 District Headquarter Hospitals catering to the population of around 24 million do not have CT scan machines. These DHQs are located in districts Lodhran, Okara, Mandi Bahauddin, Hafizabad, Attock, Mianwali, Kasur, Nankana Sahib, Multan, Layyah, Vehari, Chakwal, Bhakkar, Chinniot, Sialkot and Khushab.
According to information provided by 21 DHQs of Punjab, there are 1960 oxygen cylinders in these secondary care hospitals of which 259 are non-functional. There are total 80 ultrasound machines and 14 are not working while out of 186 ECG machines, 36 are out of order. Only six DHQs have functional CT scan machines. The data shows that out of 97 total X-ray machines in these 21 DHQs of Punjab, 20 are non-functional while the Pakpattan DHQ does not have even a single functional X-ray machine.
In the KP, seven DHQs have 188 oxygen cylinders of which 25 are non-functional while there are 25 ultrasound machines but only 17 are working properly. In these seven districts, 16 out of 30 ECG machines are not working. There are 25 X-ray machines in these DHQs but seven of them cannot be used.
Talking to The News, Zahid Abdullah termed the situation alarming. “The poorest of the poor people usually go to these government hospitals for treatment but the provincial governments have failed miserably in fulfilling their needs,” he said.
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