KARACHI: Karachi’s famous Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital also known as Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) was attacked on late Friday night as dozens of citizens took the law into their own hands by vandalising the facility and attacked doctors on duty, allegedly over “delayed handing over of a Covid-19 patient’s body”.
According to hospital and police officials, the patient was brought to the hospital at 2:15am on Friday but died while being treated. Samples were sent for testing as the health workers tending to him suspected that he was a Covid-19 patient whereas the results confirmed their suspicions.
However, the relatives of the deceased patient refuted the test results and alleged that doctors had declared him to be positive even though he was “normal”.
According to the police, a 70 people strong mob entered the hospital, took the body of the deceased from the emergency ward and subjected the medical personnel on duty to physical harassment.
Videos taken of the hospital’s entrance showed a large number of people removing equipment such as stretchers from the hospital premises and also breaking the sanitiser gate.
Responding to the allegations, CHK Medical Superintendent (MS) Dr Khadim Hussain Qureshi told a local media outlet that doctors at the hospital were only following the standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the government for handling bodies of people who die from the virus.
“We are government servants. We only follow what the government tells us. The patient had come to the hospital complaining of a heart problem. The doctors suspected that he had coronavirus and conducted a test. It takes time for the result to be received and we could not release the body before that,” he said.
“Doctors are demanding security. It’s hard for them to work under this kind of situation,” he added.
Another doctor who was on duty at the time said the incident took place at around 11 pm. He and other doctors on duty were also tortured and abused.
“It’s the third time in a week,” he claimed.
The doctor also claimed that the police, deployed outside the hospital gate, did not help the medical staff while no arrests have been made as yet, leaving the doctors with not many options but to demand deployment of Sindh Rangers for security.
Dr Qureshi said although the doctors were able to save themselves from serious injuries, a female doctor was slapped by one of the deceased’s relatives.
“Doctors are already putting their lives in danger to save people; the public should support them. The way they have resorted to beating doctors, who will save them if we refuse to work? People should understand that doctors have no enmity with anyone. When a patient comes to us, we don’t see their ethnicity or religion. We only want them to get better,” he said, adding that citizens had displayed poor ethics.
On the other hand, local media outlets who reached out to senior police officials reported that the hospital had not contacted any law enforcement agencies or the police for lodging a first information report (FIR).
According to reports, police have registered a case on their own accord over charges of rioting and creating hindrances in official work in addition to asking the hospital administration to provide CCTV footage to identify and arrest the suspects.
Earlier in the month, Karachi’s Jinnah hospital had also witnessed two such incidents after COVID-19 patients passed away. Doctors at Patel Hospital say they’ve been witnessing such violence from attendants regularly ever since the pandemic began.