Specialised services lacking at DHQs

A report based on the monitoring of 65 District Headquarter Hospitals  across the country


ISLAMABAD, April 10: District Headquarter Hospitals (DHQs) have been found lacking specialized services with three-fourths out of 65 facilities monitored in February 2012 being without psychiatry and 61% having no physiotherapy services, says a Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) report.

The report released Tuesday said about two-fifths (40%) of the hospitals had no services for cardiology and chest specialists (43%) while 44% were without orthopedics. Also, 24 DHQs did not have ENT specialists.

Since patients are referred to DHQs for specialized treatment, lack of these services mean they have to seek treatment privately. In January this year, 2,622 serious patients were referred to the monitored hospitals. Effective government oversight is required to ensure availability of services at these health facilities.

The report said that more than 80% of the observed DHQs had specialized dental, surgery, pediatric, pathology, ophthalmology, gynecology and obstetric services available.

Eleven health facilities did not have blood banks; seven were without ophthalmology rooms and three lacked labour rooms.  There were no Sui gas connections available at 30 DHQs while eight did not have arrangements for clean drinking water, had no washrooms with running water and no proper waiting area for patients.

All the monitored DHQs had wards for in-patients and laboratories for tests. Similarly, all but one DHQ in Balochistan had emergency wards for out-patients and dental rooms. There were operation rooms for carrying out major operations at 64 of the 65 health facilities monitored. All but two hospitals in Balochistan had generators for power backup.

To gauge patients’ perception, 193 of them were interviewed with 45 saying they had to pay for prescribed medicines they got from the in-house pharmacies. On the other hand, 148 patients expressed satisfaction with the support and guidance they received from the paramedical staff. However, 22 complained about the absence of doctors, 50 thought the time given by the doctors in attending to them was insufficient while 33 categorized doctors’ behaviour as rude.

Unavailability of doctors and complaints about insufficient time could be attributed to low occupancy rates of medical staff and hence the shortage of doctors.

The occupancy rate of sanctioned and appointed posts of paramedical, support and administrative staff was comparatively better.

A low government oversight was observed. In the three months (November 2011- January 2012) 55 visits were made by government/elected officials to the monitored health facilities. Of these, the highest of 24 were made by the Executive District Officers (EDOs)/health, followed by government officials (16 visits), MPAs (10) and MNAs (5).

About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 42 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability.