By Sohaib Iqbal

Zahoor Hussain, kidney patient from Rajanpur.

Majority of districts in Southern Punjab don’t have basic public health facilities with the exception Nishtar Hospital in Multan. Patients from Bahawalpur, Lodhran, Khanewal, Rajan Pur, D G Khan, Mianwali, Bhakhar and Muzaffar Garh etc have to travel far away to Multan in order to receive minor treatments.

The poor state of health facilities in these districts is one of the many problems that need special attention.

Nishtar Hospital Multan is the biggest and the only well-equipped hospital in the whole Southern Punjab. People from Multan and all of the surrounding districts come here for treatment.

But this hospital does not suffice to the population of Multan district, let alone the whole South Punjab.

Rajanpur’s Zahoor Hussain, 36, is one of the hundreds of patients, suffering from kidney disease. He visits Nishtar Hospital at least once a week for his dialysis. It takes him at least five hours to reach the hospital in Multan. He has nowhere else to go for dialysis as Nishtar Hospital is the only hospital that provides dialysis facility.

But many times he has to go back home in dejection as the dialysis machines at the hospital are out of function. If the machines are working, there are too many patients in the queue and he is asked to come back after two days if not weeks.

There are only a small number of functional machines at the hospital but there are too many patients waiting for treatment every day. Hussain is one of the hundreds of patients who wait for long time to get treated.

He is a poor labourer who supports a family of seven dependents, wife and six children. Getting treatment at the right time is crucial for his survival.

Being a common labourer he needs to work every day for his survival. The delay in treatment brings him financial woes.

There are thousands of patients like Zahoor Hussain who visit Nishtar Hospital every day but due to lack of facilities or malfunction of machines, they go back home in dejection.

Nishtar Hospital being the largest one in Southern Punjab has the capacity to admit 1100 patients for treatment at a time. The government announced to increase its capacity to accommodate 1700 patients at a time but practically nothing has been done so far, complain patients.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on 18 May this year, while reviewing the health facilities in South Punjab has promised to spend “billions of rupees to provide equipment to hospitals to facilitate Patients”. He had vowed, “no stone will be left unturned in provision of quality health facilities to the people,” which is proving to be a false illusion for the people of the deprived region.

According to sources at the hospital, five thousand patients visit the hospital daily. But due to absence of facilities, the middle class patients head to private hospitals. And the poor lot has nowhere to go but to rot in despair and perish in misery.

The growing population demands more health facilities. It is high time that government builds more hospitals and improves existing hospitals by providing latest equipment, doctors and trained paramedical staff.