Missing facilities exposing citizens to health hazards

Missing facilities exposing citizens to health hazards

By Abdul Shakoor Khan

QUETTA, Dec 3 (APP): Insufficient facilities of standard Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PRC) laboratories as well as ineffective scientific approach to deal with epidemics exposed thousands of Balochistan residents to hazardous spread of epidemics.

Application of scientific approaches like Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) was also yet to be fully in place as witnessed in recent emergence of Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever virus (CCHF).

Healthcare staff including doctors, nurses and paramedics was also seen falling short of meeting international standards of treatment for CCHF as its recent spread claimed four lives and many had to be shifted to Karachi hospitals.

Although timely efforts of the caretaker government yielded some positive results, minimizing the risk of the epidemic spread to a great extent, yet one doctor, a paramedic and two other citizens lost their lives in recent sudden outbreak of the epidemic. However, the year-wide figure of deceased and infected people had been……..and…….. respectively.

This situation raises multiple questions on existing flaws within the health system urging the need for better adherence to global guidelines designed for best healthcare and curbing the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and pathogens.
“Soon after the CCHF outbreak in Quetta, the health department shifted the infected patients including doctors, nurses and health workers to Karachi to control the situation,” said Dr Shahkoh, Focal Person for Health Department.

“The provincial government responded timely and positively to the situation. However, there were some instances of non-compliance of IPC approach and lack of some health facilities that contributed to CCHF spread,” he stated.

According to findings of the Independent Health Monitoring and Emergency Response Unit, the recent sudden CCHF spread occurred when a suspected Congo virus patient, admitted to medicine ward of Civil Hospital Quetta infected duty doctors and staff.

The unexpected spread of CCHF coerced the provincial government to declare health emergency also shifting critical patients to Karachi for better healthcare.

The outbreak was controlled but it left behind a question as to why the majority of the infected were health practitioners including doctors, nurses and paramedics. Obviously, it had happened due to non-compliance of international guidelines like IPC and Personal Prevention Equipment (PPE) practiced globally to cure CCHF.

Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) is a scientific approach and practical solution designed to prevent harm caused by infection to patients and health workers. It also serves as an essential component in curing infectious diseases.

Findings of Response Unit report also revealed that missing facility of globally acknowledged standard Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PRC) labs deteriorated the situation, making government to close down some wards at hospitals.

“We don’t have standard ICU and PRC labs available in Balochistan hospitals. The issue lingers on despite several reminders to concerned authorities,” remarked Dr Arif, spokesman Young Doctors Association. “There is dire need to pay heed to these crippling issues ensuring provision of these basic facilities at hospitals.”

He stressed to set up modern and well equipped PRC and ICU facilities instead of sheer construction of new buildings and extension of the present ones.

“There are rumors of getting commission in constructing buildings, that is why less heed is paid towards installing equipment,” he claimed and called upon the government to focus on equipment installation to ensure better investigation of diseases.

By the time only Fatima Jinnah Hospital has a functioning PRC lab while a project of 15 PRC labs initiated during tenure of former Chief Minister Jam Kamal, remains unaccomplished due services’ extension issue of the employees.

However, Health Department Spokesman Dr. Shahkoh stated that Chief Minister Balochistan Ali Mardan Domki has issued directives for extension of employees of PRC labs and soon these labs would be fully functional.

Meanwhile, Riaz Louis, President Nurses Association Balochistan has also complained about absence of standard ICUs at provincial hospitals. “Lack of latest testing and treatment facilities at our hospitals were one of the reasons behind spread of CCHF that threatens lives of citizens as well as the hospital staff.”

This condition is a clear testament to the dire state of affairs in Balochistan and needs sincere efforts to bolster healthcare across the province in line with modern day requirements.

Besides absence of latest facilities like standard ICUs and PRC, proper disposal of hospital waste is another issue resulting in spread of pathogens’ outbreak.

The experts have recommended that to avoid any such future outbreak of epidemics, the government and health authorities must ensure that IPC guidelines are followed in letter and spirit.

Until certain risk factors are addressed and behaviors of health workers are modified, the war against infectious diseases will continue to be a predominant and costly health issue, placing additional strain on the already beleaguered healthcare system in the province.

Similarly, there is also dire need to shift to implementation and monitoring from planning stage as non adherence to IPC, AMR and non-functioning of ICU and PRC labs, the people, in other way, would be waiting for another epidemic to claim more precious lives of patients and frontline health workers.

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