BHUs under-staffed, ill-equipped to deal with emergencies

ISLAMABAD, September 21, 2010: Patients with emergency conditions do not have access to adequate medical care at the Basic Health Units (BHUs) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Balochistan and Sindh, as most of these building blocks of the country’s healthcare system lack life-saving equipment such as oxygen tents and many of them are under-staffed, reports FAFEN’s Health Institution Monitor for the month of September 2010, released here Tuesday.

Around 40% of the monitored BHUs across the country are not prepared enough to deal with medical emergencies. These BHUs lack ward and staff to cater to the needs of emergency patients. Around two-thirds (64%) of monitored BHUs in KP, 56% in Balochistan and 45% in Sindh are incapable of attending emergency patients. The situation is relatively better in Punjab where 77% monitored BHUs are capable of providing basic support to patients with emergency conditions. Oxygen tents used to administer oxygen to patients are essential life-saving devices but 42% of the observed BHUs across the country lack this equipment.

FAFEN Governance Monitors visited 91 Basic Health Units across Pakistan during August 2010 – 41 BHUs in 29 districts of Punjab, 22 BHUs in 15 districts of KP, 7 BHUs in 6 districts of Balochistan and 21 BHUs in 15 districts of Sindh (See Graph 1 for region-wise distribution of monitored facilities). The FAFEN Monitors had observed BHUs in April 2010 as well. However, the facilities selected for monitoring in August are different from those monitored in April 2010.

Around 17% of the sanctioned posts of doctors at the monitored BHUs across Pakistan are vacant – 25% in Punjab, 22% in Balochistan, 11% in Sindh and 10% in KP.

Some 32% BHUs monitored by FAFEN’s Governance Monitors across the country are without labor rooms but are otherwise adequately equipped to cater to the needs of female patients.

Region-wise analysis suggests that Balochistan BHUs are lacking in all departments in contrast to Punjab BHUs which are better equipped. FAFEN reports indicate that Balochistan BHUs are most neglected the most in terms of infrastructure, female staff and maternity/family planning facilities. FAFEN monitoring of Balochistan BHUs in March 2010 yielded similar findings.

The dismal state of BHUs in the province may be linked to week oversight by the relevant government officers and elected representatives. No government officer or elected representative visited any monitored BHU in Balochistan during the last three months. In contrast, Punjab reported a superior rate of such visits, indicating a higher level of oversight by public and elected officials.

 About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 35 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability. For more information please visit

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