Caught between the ongoing feud between the employees of the National Institute of Child Health (NICH) and the health department, 14-month-old Sufiyan lost his life on Friday.
The baby boy, who lived in Orangi Town, was admitted at the health facility the same day and died before the doctors could diagnose him properly.
The subsequent talks between the health officials and the protesting employees also failed as they government asked them to wait until the upcoming budget is announced. The employees are demanding health allowance and claim it is their basic right. The union leaders announced their strike and boycott from hospital duties will continue today [Saturday].
“They [officials] had given us a lollipop,” claimed Zaryab Tiwana, one of the leaders who attended the meeting with the health department officials. “The government is not serious about solving issues.”
The president of Young Nurses Association, Aijaz Kalheri, said the health allowance is their basic right and the government should immediately announce it.
The strike, which started on Thursday, was announced by a joint action committee that comprised disgruntled workers from both the NICH and Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC). When the committee met District South deputy commissioner, he assured them their allowance will be paid soon and the delays were merely caused due to bureaucratic hurdles in forwarding the summary. After the successful negotiations, Joint Action Committee’s executive member Ismail Jiskani suspended their strike. “There is no need to continue the protest when the issue is being resolved.”
However, the NICH workers were not satisfied and continued their protest on Friday.
It was a battle of wits inside the NICH wards on Friday as some nurses wanted to treat the patients in need while the union leaders insisted they join their protests outside the building.
“What were you told earlier?” one of the leaders questioned a nurse. “Why are we observing a strike outside the hospital,” asked another before insisting she abandon her patients.
When the nurse pointed at some children who needed immediate attention, the men asked them to let them be. “Let the situation become worse, let them [parents] cry,” said one of the leaders. “We are fighting for our rights. The issue will be resolved when there is a critical situation in the hospital.”
The only nurse who was managing that floor left in a hurry as the children were left on their own.
Sufiyan’s worried mother ran to the doctor to take a look at him. The doctor asked three junior doctors to help him out and the team tried to revive him for nearly 10 minutes before declaring him dead.
She questioned the doctors how it happened. “He was fine a few hours ago,” she kept asking. Since there was no nurse available, the grief-stricken mother removed the cannula from the baby’s hands and the feeding tube from his nose.
Sufiyan was brought to NICH’s emergency ward a few hours before he died. “He had [some kind of] blood disease,” said the doctor, adding that his condition was quite serious. “We are trying to manage but it is not so easy to work without the support staff,” added another doctor.
Parents clash with protesters
Some worried parents argued with the protesting NICH staff when they failed to help their children. “My son is in serious condition. For God’s sake, please come with me,” cried one attendant. Losing hope, he tried to douse himself in the petrol from his motorcycle. “Our kids are dying but you don’t care,” shouted another father from Naushero Feroz.
Meanwhile, the protesting workers insisted it was not their responsibility. “We had already informed the hospital management not to admit serious patients in the wards,” said the nurses’ association’s Kalheri. “Our protest is for our rights and we’ll continue until the authorities resolve them.”
The hospital employees, including the staff of JPMC, had decided that at least one member of the support staff will be available in the ward but so far the workers have failed to implement this. Hardly any workers attended the out-patients department or visited the wards on Friday.
“I’ll take action against the hospital management, if [it is proved] this boy died due to negligence,” announced the health secretary, Saeed Ahmed Mangnejo.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2015.