Sindh’s health minister informed the provincial assembly on Tuesday that the government has been unable to get advanced life support (ALS) ambulances for public hospitals over the past two years because of the blanket ban on vehicle procurement.
Responding to the queries of lawmakers during the question hour of the PA session, Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho said that a total of 521 ambulances have been serving in different districts of the province.
She said that apart from this regular ambulance fleet, 60 ambulances have been serving in Karachi and 25 in Thatta under public-private partnership. She, however, admitted that there is a shortage of ALS ambulances across the province.
Replying to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf legislator Sidra Imran’s question, Dr Azra said that an earlier plan of the provincial government to get 200 state-of-the-art ambulances for Karachi could not be implemented due to the ban on vehicle procurement.
The minister said that only one ambulance with a ventilator is available at the Chandka Medical College Hospital in Larkana. She also said that only 10 ambulances are operational in District Larkana, while 14 others have been out-of-order for at least a decade because they are beyond repair.
Another opposition lawmaker asked what action was taken against a hospital’s medical superintendent who had denied the use of an ambulance to transport a body, following which a donkey cart had been used for the purpose and its video clip had gone viral on social media.
Dr Azra said that no action can be taken against any such MS because ambulances cannot be used to transport bodies, adding that their use should be limited to taking critically ill patients to hospitals, especially when there is a shortage of ambulances.
She also said that the Civil Hospital Tharparkar does not have an intensive care unit, so the critically ill patients of the remote district have to be taken to Hyderabad for treatment. She assured the House that critical care facilities will be provided to every district hospital of the province with proper equipment and staff after the Covid-19 emergency is over.
The health minister said that it is quite difficult for the provincial government to arrange specialised staff and equipment to provide critical care facilities at every district hospital because of the persisting pandemic.
Energy Minister Imtiaz Ahmed Shaikh informed the PA that gas consumers across the province have been facing a severe shortage of the commodity this winter.
He said that denying gas to its consumers violates Article 158 of Pakistan’s constitution when Sindh indigenously produces much more of the commodity than it needs. He elaborated that Sindh produces 2,600 mmcfd natural gas, but it is being provided up to 1,000 mmcfd against its need of 1,700 mmcfd. He pointed out that apart from domestic consumers, industrial units across the province are also facing an acute shortage of gas and the situation has badly affected their operations.
He criticised the federal government for its failure to provide gas to its consumers across Sindh and for illegally diverting the commodity upcountry, even though it is produced in the province.
Shaikh also criticised the Centre for its failure to timely procure liquefied natural gas for Pakistan before winter and creating a serious energy crisis across the country as a result. His criticism of the federal government caused a furore in the House, causing the opposition legislators to protest. The ensuing disorder forced PA Speaker Agha Siraj Khan Durrani to prorogue the session.