He was bundled in a stark white cloth, his head gaping through the wrapper as he was being ruthlessly carried out of the ward. He was born on the first day if this year, 2011 and died four days later – couldn’t battle long enough for sufficient oxygen. Son of Abdul Sattar died of asphyxia and breathed his last at the NICH hospital – Karachi, Pakistan.
The sight was horrific and disconcerting. However, for the medical staff it was a typical happening, which they encounter at least 4-5 times a day. As we walked through the ward the parents looked at us with helplessness in their eyes, hoping that we are some senior medical practioners. Or magical practioner for that matter – who would wand away their child’s illness and revive them back to health.
Their temporary hope was crushed back to the debilitated faculties of the ward. They were thrown back to the mercy of ill equipped and unhygienic premises – Back to the mercy of irresponsible nurses and undependable doctors. Pakistan’s public healthcare sector is under resourced and over whelmed. Physicians and nurses display extreme irresponsibility primarily due to lack of financial incentives and resources in terms of medical equipment etc.
In the last decade or so the urban cities have seen a drain on resources because of rural migration. Poor sanitation, lack of infrastructure and proper healthcare are some of the few issues that the dwellers of urban slums face. Unfortunately people have no access to a continuous, compassionate, family centered and accessible healthcare. In the low income group deaths are primarily due to unhygienic home deliveries, premature births and inadequate post natal care. Low socio-economic conditions, below par income, population explosion and illiteracy are some of the major contributory factors to poor health and high morbidity levels.
National Institute of Child Health was opened in Karachi in 1962 in the building of the present Basic Medical Science Institute in Jinnah Hospital premises. The emergency ward witnesses an insurgence of patients suffering from diarrhea, respiratory infections, kidney problems and burns. By way of statistics in the month of December, 2010 alone there were 120 deaths with half of them being newborns and the other unfortunate half being under twelve. It is interesting to note that until about two years ago the emergency ward was in shambles, with the monthly mortality rate being 250. Until about two years ago the ward was managed by the Government.
In April 2009 a young lady, Zantiana Saqib decided to take on the emergency ward of NICH and protect the poor from rising healthcare costs.
The ward is still in shambles! There is cracked paint on the drab walls, rustic equipment and absence of basic hygiene and sanitization. It’s crowded with teary eyed mothers and suffering children.
However, with her relentless efforts she and her two co-workers [Mr. Arshad Ghanchi (46) and Ms. Faiza Usman] have managed to bring down the mortality rate by half. Bulk of the medication is brought from pharmaceutical giants like Roche, Merck and Abbott on a monthly basis, stored in a warehouse and brought to NICH on a weekly basis. The medicines are then dispensed on the doctor’s prescription to every patient—absolutely free of cost. She has also managed to maintain and update the medical equipment that was present at the time she took over the ER.
Yet her biggest challenge remains restrained access to capital, the kind of capital that would make a positive social impact on the families living in that area. The disparity of good health between us and the poor is becoming wider and wider. It’s our social responsibility to engage in community services and help reform the lives of young children and their parents who are not so privileged.
To improve the public health care system in Pakistan we have to collaborate and work together. We have to organize and devise solutions both large and small to improve the lives of the poor. We have to give them their basic right to live – which is Good Health! – Please help save a life
Write up and photography shared in a Facebook note by Saadia Tariq