The world is shocked by the news of hundreds of abandoned bodies on the roof of a hospital in Pakistan, after the advisor to the Chief Minister of Punjab, Chaudhry Zaman Gujjar, made the information public. Spokesperson of Nishtar Medical University Dr Sajjad Masood issued a statement on the incident, claiming that strict action would be taken against those responsible for the bodies rotting “under the open sky”.
While Dr Masood said several inquiry committees had been instituted to investigate the matter and denied that there were many bodies on the roof, why even four bodies that he conceded lay decomposing on the roof of the hospital cannot be explained by the excuse that "they were left to naturally dry and be used for medical students' education".
The spokesman said that bodies that were four to five years old were being used for educational purposes.
A video going viral on social media, meanwhile, shows many bodies dumped on the roof in bad conditions, resulting in rumours that the bodies were kept on the roof to be used as fodder for eagles and vultures.
After receiving the information about the incident, Additional Chief Secretary South of Punjab Saqib Zafar formed an inquiry committee and took strict notice of the desecration and abandonment of the bodies, says Pakistani media.
The secretary of specialised healthcare has issued the notification of the formation of a six-member inquiry committee to thoroughly investigate the incident.
Additional Secretary Specialised Health Care Muzamil Bashir will head the committee that has been ordered to submit its report in three days. But research by Sirf News suggests the following reason for the rot (no pun intended).
Why 500 bodies were left decomposing in the Pakistani hospital: Medical staff scarcity
More than 100 public healthcare facilities in Murree, Taxila, Gujar Khan, Kahuta, Kotli Sattian and Kallar Syedan in the struggling economy of Pakistan are facing an acute shortage of doctors and paramedics, and are completely devoid of laboratory facilities. As a result, people from the six tehsils are forced to travel long distances and bear huge expenses to seek treatment at either Benazir Bhutto General Hospital, Holy Family Hospital or District Headquarters Hospital in Rawalpindi.
Amid economist Steve Hanke's warning that Pakistan is on the brink of a "debt default", the issue of staff crunch spilt over to Nishtar Hospital, which allegedly has about 500 human corpses rotting on its roof.
Muhammad Altaf, an attendant who had come to Benazir Bhutto General Hospital for an appendix operation of his relative, commenting on the matter said that he had brought his patient from Chakwal, “where there are no facilities for surgery at all,” reported Pakistan-based Express Tribune.
The news medium met a certain Shabbir Ahmad, a caregiver from the Kallar Syedan area who had come to the Holy Family Hospital with his patient who was expecting, said that even routine procedures required travelling to Rawalpindi. “We approached the THQ but the staff said they could not accommodate our case and instead referred us to this hospital,” a visibly irate Ahmad informed. Just like Ahmad, Shaukat and his wife were referred from Kahuta to the District Headquarters Hospital.
“We had to spend money on public transport just to come and get my wife’s fever checked,” said Shaukat, adding that they would have to wait in the long queue for the OPD just for a routine checkup. Statistics compiled from different Pakistani sources say 83 posts of doctors, including lady doctors, and more than 100 posts of support staff are lying vacant in health facilities situated in the six tehsils.
Sources say that the influx of patients from the six tehsils overburdens the three major public hospitals of Rawalpindi, as their OPDs have to cater to roughly 1,800 to 2,000 patients every day. Professor Dr Muhammad Umar, the vice-chancellor of Rawalpindi Medical University, says that this overburdening of the wards and operation theatres of the city’s hospitals deprives many of adequate healthcare.
“The government needs to provide better medical facilities in all tehsils of the district.” Chief Executive of District Health Authority, Rawalpindi, Dr Anser Ishaq said when asked about the vacant posts and missing facilities. He concurred with the data obtained.
“There is a shortage of 83 doctors in 114 medical centres of the six tehsils. Furthermore, many primary healthcare centres do not currently have laboratories and X-ray facilities for which patients are referred to the headquarters.” When asked what the government planned on doing to address the shortcomings, Dr Ishaq stated, “We are currently recruiting new doctors."
"Moreover, X-ray machines have been installed in Rural Health Centres in Daultala, Phagwadi, Murree, and Bagga Sheikhan areas. An X-ray machine will also be installed in Wah General Hospital and the THQ in Taxila is being upgraded,” Dr Ishaq added.