By Yahya Reki
It was a sudden and piercing pain in her left arm, when Haji Muhammed Rafique, who hells from Dalbandin, felt his daughter so unrest that she was unable to move her arm. He took his daughter,16-year-old Saba*, to the provincial capital Quetta for medication. Dalbandin city is the headquarter of district Chagai, the biggest district of Balochistan in terms of area. Coupled with a lack of attention by the provincial government and public representatives alike, Dalbandin stands at the end of the list of getting any facilities including a sophisticated healthcare system.
Back in 2004, the then provincial government established the Prince Fahad Bin Sultan Hospital Dalbandin with financial support flying in from Saudi Arabia. As per the relevant sources aware of the situation on the ground, the hospital has a quota of Rs 10,108,000 annually for medication facility, and that, too, is not sufficient to facilitate local people.
Besides emergency situation and surgeries, the hospital facilitates over 1000 patients on a monthly basis. However, patients in emergency cases are pushed to buy canula, bandages, and stitches from private medical stores, while most of the medicines prescribed by doctors are not available at the hospital’s store.
According to Haji Muhammed Rafique, who had a direct encounter with hospital staff when his daughter was ill, local people are not getting any benefit from the hospital when even they visit the hospital with an ailment as meager as seasonal flu. “After having more than the 6-hour-long and exhausting journey, I came to Quetta for further treatment of my daughter,” he adds.
According to Balochistan Physiotherapy Association, the physiotherapy department is not operational in most government hospitals, and a non-qualified staff is working in private hospitals to mint further money from people in the name of providing health services.
He says when he felt not a one-bit improvement in his daughter’s health; he came to Karachi for her treatment. Here I have doled out a huge amount to only cover accommodation expenses let alone counting the cost of healthcare for my daughter. “It was a big financial challenge for me to buy medicine and bear transport expenses. The government of Balochistan should approve posts for physiotherapists, and establish fully equipped units in all tertiary healthcare hospitals of the province.”
According to Chairman Balochistan Physiotherapy Association, Dr. Rashid Rehmat, overall 1200 male and female graduates have completed a 5-year degree in physiotherapy from Balochistan and other universities of the country. Despite recommendations of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC), they are deprived of paid house jobs. They are working in Bolan Medical Complex Hospital and Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zaid Hospital Quetta without a stipend. More than 100 students of physiotherapy are enrolled in different universities.
Dr. Rehmat says a delegation of doctors met Chief Minister Balochistan Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo and briefed him about job opportunities and financial hurdles, the CM assured him to resolve issues. While deducting posts because of financial burden, the ex-principal secretary to CM, According to Dr. Rehmat, changed the notification which stopped its implementation of it.
The Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments had provided paid house jobs to physiotherapists and they are doing a full-time job. It will be helpful to improve the provision of health facilities to the people in government hospitals, adds Rehmat.
“Physiotherapists started to protest for paid house jobs on 2nd June 2022. We have discussed issues with Minister of Health department Syed Ehsan Shah, cabinet members, and other MPAs, but all in vain,” Dr. Rehmat informed Balochistan Voices.
On 21st December 2022, a committee, led by opposition leader Malik Sikandar Khan Advocate, and by members of Provincial Assembly Mir Zabid Ali Reki, Ahmad Nawaz Baloch, Akhtar Hussain Langove, and Nasrullah Zeray, visited the hunger-strike camp of physiotherapists in front of Quetta Press Club for negotiations. After a successful meeting, physiotherapists announced to end of their 3-week-long hunger strike.
Dr. Bashir Kakar performs duty as a physiotherapist and has been in service for the last 3 years at Children Hospital Quetta (CHQ). As per his estimations, in 1998, the Government of Balochistan established Physiotherapy Unit in CHQ. Initially, the services were being provided to the children but now the unit has been upgraded and the provision of services has been started to the elders too. Especially patients with polio, paralysis and mental disorders, muscles, joints, back pain, and sports injuries are coming to CHQ Physiotherapy Unit for treatment. He adds that short diathermy, traction, ultrasound, vibrator, and treadmill machine are available in the unit. Apart from this, a gym facility is also available for the patients.
“2 permanent physiotherapists along with 4 internees,” says Kakar, “perform duties in two shifts in the unit. He further adds that Mentally Disorder cases are rare due to family marriages where children are born with paralysis and Back pain is caused due to weight gain.”
There is the possibility to resolve this issue for which government needs to establish operational physiotherapy units across the province. Moreover, it is need of time to appoint female physiotherapists to resolve issues faced by female patients, too.
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