Access to healthcare by Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani


Regular air travel is an important feature of my socio-political life. However, this week the journey from Karachi to Islamabad did not prove to be a pleasant one. Due to continuous wearing of the face mask, followed by a nap during the flight, I became deficient in oxygen and started feeling weak at the time of landing. Eventually, my car driver had to move towards the hospital instead of home.

The three days spent at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Hospital proved to be an unforgettable event of my life. During my stay there, I have seen how the underprivileged are facing tough times due to lack of money; their loved ones are losing their lives in front of their eyes but they are unable to afford medical tests and medicines.

Luckily, I was admitted to the Cardiology Department of PIMS Hospital, headed by the angelic Prof Dr Naeem. The way he checked me was superb. I was admitted to the CCU for two days, during which I noticed that the sweeper came regularly every two hours. Special care was taken to keep the ward clean. Similarly, the nursing and other staff were very polite, friendly and cooperative. During the time I spent there, I did not face any kind of trouble.

Obviously, as a member of the National Assembly, I have the right to be treated at PIMS Hospital. I am grateful that all the doctors and staff in the Cardiology Department have been very kind to all the patients due to the caring and human-loving policies of Dr Naeem. On the other hand, it is quite regrettable that the PIMS management charges fees for providing basic services to patients such as Angiography, CT scan and MRI contrast. I observed that poor people were literally weeping because they could not afford expensive medicine.

Although the hospital is running on public tax money, a large number of poor patients were denied there. Similarly, due to non-availability of CT scans and MRIs in the Polyclinic and other government hospitals, emergency patients from there are also shifted to PIMS Hospital. Recently, Ms Sajida Begum MNA has also raised a question in the National Assembly session regarding such inhumane transfer of patients in pain. In today’s modern era, such a tragic situation is shameful for any government. I believe that demanding test fees from patients in government hospitals and denying free medicines is also a violation of the basic aims and objectives of setting up a government hospital.

The double standard meted out to haves and have-nots at PIMS Hospital reminded me of the NICVD, a cardiology institute based in Karachi. Once a patient is admitted to this institute, it is his/her right to be treated with honour and dignity, regardless of his/her financial status. The said hospital has to bear all charges, even the cost of treatments goes to Two Million Rupees. The support of the Sindh government for running such a great institution is laudable. That’s why many professional doctors such as: Dr Azam Shafqat, previously working with the Aga Khan Hospital, are preferring to serve NICVD.

It is a pity that the health sector has never been included in the priorities of any federal government. The present regime should realize that the identity of a welfare state is to provide basic facilities to all citizens, especially free healthcare services. Today, the federal government must avail the good services of Dr Naeem for setting up a role model hospital like NICVD in Islamabad. Otherwise, the Sindh government should prove its commitment in the field of healthcare by establishing a branch of NICVD in the federal capital.

The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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