Maternity hospital still a pipe dream – 10 Nov 2022

Change in government has put a question mark on the project’s future

An exclusive gynaecology hospital, with a focus on pre and postnatal care, was promised to Rawalpindi more than a decade ago but it is still under construction with no timeline on when the project will actually end up benefiting residents of the city.

The 200-bed mother and child hospital that was to be built in the federal capital’s twin has once again been halted due to political instability and change of government. Consequently, the 3 existing large public health facilities in the garrison city are overburdened and women facing gynae issues are forced to turn to pricey private hospitals.

Sheikh Rasheed Shafiq, who is a Member National Assembly (MNA) from Rawalpindi, commenting on the matter, maintained that 70 percent of the project had been completed. “Tenders for machinery were to be issued and the outpatient department was to be inaugurated on June 10, but the work was stopped after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government ended as the payments to the contractor dried up,” Shafiq informed.

However, claims regarding the completion of the project have been made in the past as well as the project’s inception date was nearly 15 years ago. Shafiq’s uncle and prominent politician, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who was the federal railways minister back then, announced the project in 2007.

Former prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, laid the foundation stone of the project, which at that time was supposed to cost Rs 2.25 billion to the public exchequer. It is pertinent to mention that former chief justice of the Supreme Court, Saqib Nisar, visited the site of the project along with former federal minister, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, back in 2018, and gave instructions to the monitoring cell to provide regular progress reports.

Subsequently, former prime minister Imran Khan, inaugurated the under construction hospital again and issued instructions to complete the project in a timely manner, at the revised cost of Rs 9 billion.

“So far, Rs 6.50 billion has been spent on the project while the remaining Rs 2.5 billion, was released but has not been utilised yet,” said Shafiq, adding that there was no telling what would become of the project now.While the project’s fate hangs in the balance, the other three hospitals in the city are overburdened with expecting mothers.

From January to October 2022, Holy Family Hospital conducted 16,746 delivery cases; similarly, 7,701 deliveries were performed in District Headquarters Hospital from June 2021 to June 2022; and 5,790 were performed in Benazir Bhutto General Hospital during the past year.

Due to the high influx of patients, many pregnant women are turned away. Muhammad Ishtiaq, who took his pregnant wife for a check-up at Holy Family Hospital, said that the number of patients in the gynaecology OPD was so high that it was impossible to get a slot.

“Even if one luckily gets an appointment, the doctors and the staff, instead of doing a detailed examination, try to discharge their duty by prescribing a few medicines,” Ishtiaq said.

Another resident of the city, Muhammad Ramzan, who took his wife to the Benazir Bhutto General Hospital for a delivery, informed that as many as 2 women and 3 children were being kept in each bed in the hospital. “After seeing this, I was forced to take my wife to a private hospital,” Ramzan remarked. Professor Dr Muhammad Umar, who is the head of the three hospitals, when asked about the influx of pregnant patients, said that this was indeed an issue.

“The hospitals get patients not only from Rawalpindi district but also from Islamabad, Abbottabad, and Azad Kashmir. Therefore, the patients, the hospitals’ management, and the gynaecology departments are all suffering,” Dr Umar explained to The Express Tribune.

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