LAHORE – Three more women lost their lives in the city on Sunday due to reaction of free medicine provided by the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), taking the death toll to 110.

Also on Sunday, Federal Investigation Agency arrested PIC Chief Executive Dr Jaffar Saleem while Punjab Government suspended former Punjab Health Services Director General Dr Muhammad Aslam Chaudhry and Punjab Chief Drug Inspector Moazzam Ali Khan, sending ripples across the medical community who vowed to launch a strong protest over the recent developments.

Young Doctors Association Punjab has announced to close down Outdoor Patient Departments (OPDs) at all the public sector hospital on Monday (today) to press for the release of arrested doctor and for the restoration of suspended healthcare managers.

The three women, who succumbed to drug reaction on Sunday, were Saleem Bibi, a resident of Gujranwala, Farhat Kausar of Sialkot and Rasheed Bibi of Baghbanpura who breathed their last at the Services Hospital.

A Health Department spokesman said as many as 22 patients have recovered and discharged from various hospitals during the last 24 hours. As such, 323 patients have so far been discharged: 232 from Services Hospital, 35 from Jinnah Hospital, 29 from Mayo and 3 from Lahore General Hospital. At present, 368 patients are under treatment at different hospitals: 171 at Services Hospital, 84 at Mayo, 62 at Jinnah, 23 at Ganga Ram, 16 at LGH, 4 at Shaikh Zayed, 2 at Wapda Hospital and 1 at the Doctors Hospital. Moreover, 3 patients are under treatment at Allied Hospital Faisalabad and 2 at Nishtar Hospital Multan.

The spokesman further stated that 89 deaths due to reaction of medicines have been confirmed so far. He said that report regarding death of four patients in Services Hospital due to the reaction of medicines during the last 24 hours has been received. He said that no person or institution was above accountability and action would be taken against those found guilty of negligence in the light of the judicial inquiry. He said that all officers and doctors concerned have been removed from their posts for ensuring free, fair and transparent probe.

He said that the rules of autonomous hospitals regarding purchase of medicines were clear in which responsibilities have been fixed. He said that under Hospital Autonomy Act 2003, the head of the hospital was a Category-I officer, completely independent in the purchase of medicines and financial matters. He said that the major hospitals purchase medicines directly without the interference of the Punjab Health Department.

Commenting on the strike call given by Young Doctors Association, he said that if anyone has any grievance, he should talk to the government but the patients should not suffer. He further said that the inquiry into the deaths of patients due to reaction of medicines would be carried out by Lahore High Court and everyone should wait for the findings.

Condemning the arrest and suspension of senior doctors, Punjab Healthcare Managers Association has demanded immediate release of Dr Jaffar Saleem and restoration of Dr Aslam Ch and Moazzam Ali Khan. President of the association Dr Nisar Cheema said that action without proper investigation was uncalled for. He demanded the government avoid harassing the healthcare managers without probe. Expressing sorrow over the loss of precious human lives due to reaction of medicines, he said that a stringent action should be taken against the responsible after impartial probe and fulfilling the requirements of justice.

Pakistan Medical Association has also strongly condemned the suspension and arrests of senior doctors without thorough probe and demanded their immediate release. PMA stated that those involved in the purchase of medicines and clearance from the drug testing laboratory were at large while the doctors were being suspended and arrested. It said that the PIC administration was bound to follow the directions of the technical committee of the health department regarding the purchase of medicine for the health facility. The medics body threatened to give a strike call across the province if the doctors were not released and restored. Executive committee meeting has been called to finalise the line of action on Tuesday (tomorrow).

Meanwhile, fearing presence of substandard drugs, different health facilities have started inspection of pharmacies. On the instructions of Chairman and Dean Shaikh Zayed Hospital Prof Zafar Iqbal and Administrator Dr Akbar Hussain, chief pharmacist and pharmacists rechecked the Medical Drugs Store and found everything in order.

“There are no expired or unregistered medicines in our store. SZH will ensure provision of best healthcare facilities and quality medicine to the patients at emergency, indoor and the OPD”, chief pharmacist said.