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)

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