Step Forward

For the last two weeks, I unfortunately had to closely interact with the health care system in Lahore from one private hospital to another. It’s common knowledge that we have an inferior healthcare system and the majority of the country does not have access to a high standard of healthcare. But sadly, the privileged minority is also quite frustrated with the accessibility to good standards especially when they come with such a heavy price. My aunt was admitted to one of the top hospitals in the city in the Defence area where the daily room charges were pretty high but the room condition or staff attendance was as bad if not worse than a public hospital. When the patient was discharged, we were billed for consultation fees of the main consultant for visits he had not even made to the patient. What irked me more than anything else was the attitude of the consultant who refused to have any empathy for the patient or patience to address the concerns of the family and rupees six thousand charged for a two-minute visit from an arrogant doctor whose team’s main agenda was to convince us to get a high-risk surgery done from the hospital and rushing us to alarming possibilities if we did not. On top of that when we took her to the emergency room while she was getting fits and in the middle of a brain hemorrhage, the ER doctor handed her a prescription and asked us to arrange for the emergency medicine to be administered until our protests in screams perhaps intimidated him to take care of the patient.
The nightmare continued as she was shifted to another hospital where in all fairness if the hospital conditions were relatively better, we had to be involved at every step of the surgery or involvement. For example, we were told we could take the patient home and when we insisted on her vitals being checked, they found out her heart rate was 40 and then she was taken more seriously and admitted. And, mind you I am talking about a patient with a brain tumor here so it’s as serious as it can get. Running after doctors and nurses for what should be their job, especially when paying an arm and a leg for a hospital, is unacceptable. Another factor was how a senior doctor shared unsolicited news about the patient’s diagnosis without the biopsy report. It’s like he was the bearer of bad news and had no empathy as to how he was sharing this news or how important it is to strike a balance between sharing a diagnosis based on facts and understanding the impact of it if delivered on hunches which maybe are based on experience. A doctor telling us that he ‘thinks it’s a grade 4 tumour’ is highly irresponsible especially when later on we found out from the report that it was grade 2.
I cannot imagine what’s happening in public hospitals if this is the state in private ones. There are no rules regarding visitors to a hospital and in the main army hospital in Lahore where a family member is admitted, at one point at least ten people were in the room and hanging out in the lobby. Not everything can be blamed on the government and we as a nation need to introspect on our ethics values and professionalism. As people, we are a hostage to such organisations, and other than one lonely voice raised now and then, we are unable to be unified in protesting such treatment.
It’s high time that the Pakistani nation changes its attitude and learns to call a spade a spade and unify in protesting against every wrongdoing whether the outcome looks bleak or not.
We need to fight. Protest. Become ‘Karen’ in this country for things to turn around. We can’t keep looking towards others to lead but have to take that first step ourselves.

The writer is a BACP (British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited individual and couple psychotherapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at or her official website.

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