Tharparkar’s healthcare despair: Islamkot THQ hospital leaves residents disillusioned with lack of treatment

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GR Junejo

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Tharparkar’s healthcare despair: Islamkot THQ hospital leaves residents disillusioned with lack of treatment

GR Junejo

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Read In Urdu

Before Jemna Bai’s third pregnancy, her husband, Shankar Bhail, brought her to the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital (THQ) Islamkot from their hometown in Tharparkar. The doctors told them that her case is complicated and childbirth cannot happen here. They also told them that she needed an operation, so they must take her 40 kilometres (km) away to the District Hospital (DHQ) in Mithi.

Shankar Bhail is happy with the health and safety of the mother and child, but at the same time, he is also disheartened.

He says that people with money get treatment in private hospitals, but poor people like them are very worried. If the operation was done in Islamkot Hospital, he could get home-cooked food instead of buying it in Mithi. At the same time, the cost and inconvenience of travelling is apart from that.

According to Shankar Bhail, it was not only Jemna Bai who underwent hardship. On the same day, five more women were transported from THQ Islamkot to Mithi for childbirth. Everyone here is in a similar situation.

The Tehsil of Tharparkar has a separate identity due to the Tehsil Headquarters Hospital in Islamkot. Islamkot is also known as the Model City. However, the only government hospital in this city faces various issues.

Islamkot and its surrounding areas, with a population of around 1.5 million, were given the status of a Tehsil in September 2012 by the Sindh government. Islamkot, located in the southeastern part of the District Headquarters Mithi, was declared its Tehsil Headquarters.

A rural health center (RHC) was operating at that time. The only government hospital in the area, established in 1986, was upgraded to the Tehsil Hospital (THQ) at the same location. Two years after the establishment of the Tehsil, this RHC was awarded the status of THC in 1988.

Construction of a new building for a 60-bed THQ hospital started in 2016. However, the problems faced by the people of Islamkot have not diminished. This building is incomplete, and the hospital functions in a 37-year-old structure.
The city has private medical centres and an Engro Thar Coal collaboration hospital, but only specific individuals can receive treatment there. For the general public, THQ is the only government hospital.

In 2019, the management of this hospital was handed over to the Integrated Health Services (IHS) by the Sindh government. MS Dr. Nahchal Das, who retired a few months ago, alleges that this institution has destroyed the hospital and did not spend the budget here. IHS received an annual grant of Rs 1 crore and 58 lakhs, of which only Rs 1.5 lakh was given to the hospital administration.

According to official records, there are 21 positions for doctors in this hospital, but only eight doctors are currently working. There are 30 beds available here, while ten consultants and five medical officers positions have remained vacant for years.

Dr. Abdul Sattar Langjhoti, a senior medical officer at THQ Hospital, says that around 500 patients visit the OPD daily. Due to space constraints, they only admit 50 in-door patients.
The OPD of the hospital can admit two hundred patients and only ten patients indoors. At present, two government doctors and four PPHI doctors are working here.

On the condition of anonymity, a senior doctor reveals that there are no specialist doctors, surgeons, or gynaecologists in this hospital. For the past eight months, no appointment for the Medical Superintendent has occurred. The building is so dilapidated that there is fear it might collapse.

He says that in the OPD, a doctor must attend to an average of 150 patients daily. There is not enough time to examine the patients properly. Doctors send the patients away within 30 to 40 seconds.

PPHI’s Administrative Officer, Abdul Hafeez Bhatti, states that the hospital staff, including doctors, paramedical staff, and administrative staff, totals 90 members. Due to the incomplete new building, the hospital’s upgradation work is halted.

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The hospital’s new building will cost around 292 million rupees, but no one knows when this work will be completed. The Health Department’s Planning Division oversees the construction work, but despite repeated contacts, Planning Officer Waqar Kumar has not taken a position.

An official of the department, on condition of anonymity, says that the money for the project is being released in instalments, and another reason for the delay is the slowness of the contractor.

Additional District Health Hospital, Dr. Chehno, states that it will take approximately two more years for the Tehsil Hospital to be completed. However, he is not aware of the total area of the new hospital.

On October 10, 2022, during a briefing to the Prime Minister in Tharparkar, the then Chief Minister of Sindh said that 17.6 billion dollars had been spent on the infrastructure of Tharparkar. Still, people here are living in fear due to inadequate healthcare facilities.

Published on 13 Sep 2023

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