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Kharan district faces health crisis amid lack of doctors and facilities
QUETTA: The people of Kharan district, a divisional headquarters of the new Rakhshan Division in Balochistan, are suffering from a lack of basic health services and facilities, as the district headquarters hospital (DHQ) fails to cater to their growing needs.
According to a medical doctor from the DHQ, who spoke to HUM News English on condition of anonymity, the hospital faces a shortage of doctors, especially specialists, who are reluctant to serve in the remote and underdeveloped area.
“The first issue in the rural areas like Kharan is lack of doctors. Majority of medical officers go for further education, post-graduation, teaching and into management cadres and doctors avoid doing services in remote areas,” the doctor said.
He said that the hospital has not been upgraded for a long time and lacks the necessary equipment and facilities for testing and treatment. He said that if a doctor completes FCPS (Fellowship of College of Physicians and Surgeons), he or she would not be willing to provide services without any testing facilities in rural areas and a good package and other necessities a doctor wants.
“In areas like Kharan where many facilities are unavailable including electricity, roads, medicine, and quality education, it is hard to attract and retain professional people to their native town. Similarly, native doctors complete their practice but avoid going back to their local areas due to fear of losing their future,” he said.
He also claimed that the transfer and posting of doctors and other staff in the health department are influenced by political factors and that many doctors have managed to cancel their transfer orders to Kharan by using their connections.
The doctor said that the DHQ does not have the capacity to perform many routine tests such as MRI, CT scan, ultrasound, sugar HP1C, CPC, liver function, blood test, thyroid profile test, serum electrolytes, serum calcium, urine test, biopsy, typhoid test, complete blood test, and others. He said that these tests require specialist doctors in these fields, which are not available in the hospital.
However, another health official, who also requested anonymity, contradicted the doctor’s claims and said that “all the baseline tests are available at DHQ and at some BHUs (Basic Health Units) and RHCs (Rural Health Centers).” He further said that “the advanced field-related tests can only be performed when the field specialist with equipment and supporting staff is hired.”
The health crisis in Kharan district reflects the overall situation of the health sector in Balochistan, where thousands of people are deprived of basic health services and facilities, including a cancer hospital. According to medical experts, over 16,000 new cancer patients are diagnosed each year in the province and most of them have to travel to other cities for treatment.
In 2021, the Balochistan government took the initiative to build the first cancer hospital in Quetta, which is expected to benefit the people of the province. However, the project is still under construction and the people of Kharan and other remote areas are still waiting for better health care.
Kharan residents suffer from lack of health facilities despite budget allocation
The provincial government has allocated Rs65.5 billion for the health sector in its financial year 2023-24 budget, but the residents of Kharan district are still facing a shortage of medicines and surgical instruments in the district headquarters (DHQ) hospital.
According to the budget details, Rs51.74 billion were earmarked for non-devolvement sectors and Rs13.74 billion for the development sector in the health sector. Former provincial financial minister Zmarak Khan Achakzai said that Rs4.87 billion had been set aside to ensure the availability of medicines in the hospitals.
However, the patients in the DHQ hospital in Kharan are deprived of this facility due to management issues. The medicine distribution sector in the hospital is divided into two sections: the main store and the sub-store. The main store has medicines for chronic, diabetic, and hyperthyroid patients, but they are not delivered to the sub-store for distribution within 15 days. As a result, the patients cannot get their required medicines on a regular basis.
Moreover, the hospital lacks modern sterilization facilities for the surgical instruments, which poses a high risk of blood-borne diseases and the spread of hepatitis. The hospital also relies on trainees to look after the patients during the night shifts.
The residents of Kharan have demanded the provincial government and the health authorities to take notice of the situation and improve the health facilities in the district.
Ghost doctors haunt Kharan hospital
Patients in Kharan, a district in Balochistan, are suffering from a lack of qualified doctors and proper medical facilities at the District Headquarters (DHQ) hospital, which was recently upgraded to a teaching hospital.
According to locals, many doctors are absent from their duties and run their private clinics during hospital hours. Some of them are also rude and unprofessional with the patients.
Waheed Baloch* (name changed), a professor at the Balochistan University sub-campus in Kharan, told HUM News English that he had never found any doctors at the hospital and that lady doctors were especially unavailable.
“I have seen a female doctor who runs a clinic in town and avoids checking the patients in the hospital. Her behaviour is very bad with the patients in the hospital,” he said.
He added that the hospital often faced power outages and the generator did not work properly, affecting the services and tests available.
An insider, who requested anonymity, confirmed that some doctors prescribed excessive or wrong medicines to the patients, leading to overdoses and complications.
He blamed the lack of professional skills and experience for the incidents and said that sometimes the patients’ relatives misbehaved with the doctors.
He also revealed that the Local Health Board (LHB) staff, who are not trained to handle complicated cases, looked after the pregnant women in the absence of gynecologists.
“Many pregnant women have lost their lives in the city because of this,” he said.
A health official, who also wished to remain anonymous, said that the main reason for the shortage of specialist doctors in Kharan was the unavailability of slots and salaries for them.
“They can’t draw salaries from here, so they are reluctant to join. The DHQ has been declared as a teaching hospital to enhance its capacity, but the slots for specialists haven’t been allocated in the district account office yet,” he said.
HUM News English tried to contact the Medical Superintendent of DHQ Kharan for his comments, but his phone was switched off.