Save our doctors at Civil Hospital Karachi!

Published: September 12, 2013
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Healthcare professionals continue to be the victims of violence in Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

One morning I decided to make a surprise visit to the Civil Hospital Karachi. The motive of my visit was to get an idea of the current security arrangements, so that violence in hospital could be prevented and controlled. Unfortunately, this visit uncovered a set of serious security breaches.

•   There was an absence of security personnel on almost all the entrances and exits of the hospital.

•   The main gate leading to the entrance of the Emergency Department was being handled by a few unarmed security guards who were merely opening and closing gates.

•   The Police chowki (office) was empty and it appeared that no one was on duty.

•   There was no sign of Rangers pickets on either of the entrances.

•   The picket that was once parked outside the ENT department was also missing.

This serious lack of security brought back memories of an incident that took place a year ago when an armed mob entered the Civil Hospital on August 24, 2012, following the death of a political worker, admitted with gunshot wounds. The charged mob attacked the surgical unit, two doctors and the emergency Occupational Therapy (OT) staff. Several people were threatened, female doctors harassed while their male counterparts were brutally manhandled.

The associate professor of surgery in surgical unit two was given an SOS call by the team which was under attack. They were confined to the emergency OT in the wee hours of the morning, while the group of armed men kept hunting for them.

On the arrival of the associate professor of surgery in the Emergency OT, he was attacked by the violent mob. The senior surgeon ended up with a fractured nasal bone, a lacerated ear and suffered from head trauma. He was dragged on the floor from the Emergency OT to the surgical ward of unit two to sign a death certificate.

An emergency OT senior technician was also assaulted and he suffered from severe head trauma and fractured limbs. He was admitted in the emergency wing of the same hospital.

Following these events, the doctors and paramedics had observed a protest and went on a token strike till adequate security was provided. High promises were made by the police officials and the deputy commissioner office (DCO) for arresting the perpetrators of this violence. Security was beefed up in and outside the hospital and an assurance was made to have constant presence of Rangers inside the hospital. However, my visit showed an absolute lack of security – no presence of Rangers and no policemen on duty.

Had a mob entered the hospital that day, doctors and paramedics would have been the victims of physical and mental abuse yet again.

A similar incident occurred in Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) in December, 2012, when two armed wings of political parties ended up firing indiscriminately inside the emergency unit. In the CCTV footage, the medical teams are seen running for cover. Rangers are seen responding after a few minutes and their non-serious attitude results in the escape of the culprit from right under their noses.

The doctors, medical staff, paramedics and general public visiting JPMC suffered once more when a massive bomb ripped outside the emergency unit in 2010, following the bomb blast at a bus taking people to a Chehlum (religious funeral ceremony) procession.

Another incident took place in June this year — a suicide bombing was followed by a hostage situation in Bolan Medical College Quetta.

Healthcare professionals continue to be the victims of violence in Pakistan. Angry attendants, armed mobs, and charged political party workers are part of a daily routine for the medical staff that faces these hostile situations while working in the emergency services.

Efficient internal and external hospital security should be provided in public hospitals, especially for Civil Hospital Karachi, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical and Dental Center and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital. These hospitals are relied on most when the city undergoes any kind of emergency.

The least we can do is ensure the safety of our doctors and paramedics so they can do their jobs and save our lives!

The writer was part of the surgical team that was attacked by an armed mob belonging to a political party in Aug, 2012 at Civil Hospital Karachi.

Jahanzeb Effendi

Dr Jahanzeb Effendi

A young doctor, First Responder and Co-founder of First Response Initiative of Pakistan, FRIP. Training the general public to become first responders. Aspires to be a Cardiac Transplant Surgeon and build Pakistan's first Organ Sharing Network. Believes in writing for change. He tweets as @Jahanzebeffendi (twitter.com/Jahanzebeffendi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sane

    Save our patients from the doctors of government hospitals.Recommend

  • Shah (Berlin)

    Strong article….Recommend

  • Better budget !

    Grab money from the defence budget and divert the tax payers money towards hospitals, schools and better infrastructure building in the nation…better pay for doctors,teachers etc (and larger budgets to hospital management for security arrangements … )Recommend

  • Clarus

    Agree with each and every word you have written. Leaving aside the political mob, have you ever wondered what is the main reason why people have no respect for doctors these days? Daily there are several patients brought to Emergency and there is no one to attend them. Even if after screaming you do manage to call a doctor; he is just too casual about the situation. No offense i respect doctors and their profession but then again such negligence is not acceptable. And please don’t justify this by saying doctors here have a low salary scale. Overall entire city is going thru this even government colleges are not safe for students and teachers.Recommend

  • Appak

    @Sane:
    Maybe you should try and become a world class doctor and increase the quality of government doctors by working with them rather than just complaining on ETRecommend

  • The Patient

    @author
    You ripe what you sow. Accept this truth and you’ll understand where the problem lies.Recommend

  • SomeOneElse

    Agreed 100% with you Jahanzeb. Being a final year medical student at DMC, I’ve seen these things many times. The doctor you are referring to is Dr. Umair-ul-Islam, one of the most competent surgeon and a great teacher at CHK. There is literally no security out there for the students, doctors or other medical staff. I’ve seen political workers threatening senior doctors in OPD by myself.
    We live in a society where there is a lot of protocol and security for media personnel, lawyers, and even for small political party leader, but alas Dr.s are not provided any security even in there hospitals! I wish law enforcing agencies should have done something to save us from these gangsters :/

    @Sane: Brother you must have known that most of our population can not afford the Pvt. Hospitals and Clinics, and moreover FYI, these are actually the Govt. Hospitals that produce “Dr.s competent enough” who can practice in Pvt. Sectors. You cannot put 100% blame on the Dr.s for the outcomes. There are hundreds and thousands of patients who are treated and are treated very well in Govt. Sector Hospitals like CHK and JPMC. All you people know is some 5-10% of patients/cases, for whom fate is not so kind and the outcome is bad, and most of the time the reason behind these failures/bad.outcomes are limited resources, poor patient/attendant compliance or presentation at an end-stage of disease!
    Come to Emergency one day and you will see how lives are being saved and at what cost. I’ve been there, and by looking at the work done, I felt ashamed and proud at the same time, ashamed for what I thought before about the Govt. hospitals and proud for being a part of this community!!Recommend

  • kanwal

    Its a very unfortunate situation. Is there a way the security of staff could be handed over to the admin of hospital itself? May be this will make the area in their control slightly more secure.
    On a different note: i just wish sometimes that our doctors stop writing “soctor” in front of their names in general public. I am sure a huge number of them earned it through sheer hard work and devotion. But all the same. This, along with the armed forces, is a profession where people really love to see their degrees / job titles in front of their names. You can give the description of your qualification at the end of the article as usual and we ll all know you are a doctor.sigh. Recommend

  • kanwal

    Sorry fir the spelling errors in my last comments!Recommend

  • Parvez

    When a minister / bara government officer gets a twing in his knee he’s off to London to his doctor ……. at the expense of the government. Ensure that he must be treated in a Government hospital if it is to be on government expense.
    If he wishes a private hospital or to go to London, let him pay………….he’s looted enough and can afford it. Recommend

  • http://www.indianexpress.com/picture-gallery/india-celebrates-eidulfitr/3187-1.html socko

    let us ask Karachi’s doctors to first save their patients,,… then let them ask to save themselves… Recommend

  • Marium

    @Sane: I hope you do realize they are the same ones you see in private settings. Government and private doctors are the same. It’s the establishment that needs to change.Recommend

  • Sane

    @Marium:

    @Sane: I hope you do realize they are the same ones you see in private settings. Government and private doctors are the same. It’s the establishment that needs to change.

    I will disagree as they behave entirely different when work in a private institutions. Basically they hunt patients from govt. institution and treat in a private facility. Yes, establishment also need to change, but first the doctors must change themselves. By the way how an MBBS could use the title of ‘Doctor’?

    Coming to the subject of this blog post; security is the issue at all institutions and professionals. Even lawyers, teachers, media persons etc. including common citizens are killed in this country. Why to mention ‘doctor’ only.Recommend

  • Dante

    @Sane:
    We can refer them to you for treatment (Hikmat, homeopathy, anti-doctor doctrines)Recommend

  • Sane

    @Dante:

    Cynical comment shall not help in identifying and addressing the problem. Doctors instead of crying for their safety in irrational manner must look the other side as how patients are treated by them. Safety is not the problem of doctors only, but this is for every citizen irrespective to their profession. By the way, hikmat and homeopathy both are trusted and accredited way of treatment. Your believing is not necessary.Recommend

  • SomeOneElse

    @sane: brother no one is crying in an irrational way, if you think doctors are not treating patients well, my dear, as I suggested before, come to Emergency one day, you’ll see by yourself. If you think Doctors hunt down patients from govt. hospitals, brother you should know that a patient who was privileged enough to afford a Pvt. Doctor/ Hospital, would never have come to a Govt. hospital at first place.

    Moreover you said why to mention ‘doctors’ only. The reason behind this is, no other profession is targeted in its own working environment. Have you ever heard of a lawyer, judge targeted in a court? a political leader in his den? A police worker inside a police station? and others in their working environment??
    Brother no one is suggesting to allocate all the security teams for the safety of doctors, what has been suggested is that there should be at least a base level security, so that angry mob coming with guns in their hands and dead bodies of their gangsters, and compelling doctors with guns on their head to re-awake the already dead should be dealt without any worse consequences.

    Yesterday again there was an incident when a Political worker first forbade an H.O. to do Chest compression on his dying mother ( just because she was a FEMALE :/ ) , and when she eventually passed away, a gun was pointed to the H.O and the resident. Thanks to an admin R.M.O who saved the situation somehow :/

    Now, I guess you can understand under which circumstances we are compelled to do our work and why we are asking for security!

    @By the way, hikmat and homeopathy both are trusted and accredited way of treatment. Your believing is not necessary.
    I respect your belief Bro, but there are conditions like accidents, burns and RTAs where the specialties you just mentioned fail to do anything!! Recommend

  • SomeOneElse

    @sane:
    By the way how an MBBS could use the title of ‘Doctor’?

    Tell me who can use this title then?? Honorable Mr. Rehman Malik??Recommend

  • SomeOneElse

    @ET: why you haven’t published my previous comment ET? :/Recommend