Heart Surgeries Halted Due To Oxygenator Shortages At Facilities Across Punjab

Heart Surgeries Halted Due To Oxygenator Shortages At Facilities Across Punjab
LAHORE: Heart by-pass operations are at stake due to a shortage of oxygenators in public cardiac facilities, The Friday Times (TFT) has learnt.

A senior official at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) told TFT that thousands of heart operations are carried out at PIC Lahore, PIC Multan and other public heart facilities across the province, but due to the shortage of oxygenators, there is a serious threat of by-pass operations coming to a halt.

“There is serious threat to the lives of heart patients as well if measures are not taken on war footing,” a senior cardiologist at PIC maintained.

‘By-pass cannot be done without oxygenators’

Dr Aqeel Ahmed, Associate Professor and Head of Cardiology Department at Shaikh Zayed Hospital in Lahore told TFT that everyday around 450 heart by-passes are conducted across Punjab and at least 200 such surgeries on average are performed in Lahore alone.

“Oxygenators are one of the major tools for heart by-pass surgeries and they cannot be performed without it,” Dr Aqeel said, while adding that the concerned authorities have to look into this at the earliest, otherwise there is a serious threat of heart surgeries completely coming to a halt. This would lead to a serious medical emergency in the province.

Speaking to TFT, Medical Superintendent Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) Dr Muhammad Tahseen said that one oxygenator is required for every open heart surgery and we are facing a lot of difficulties at the moment.

“We managed to get a few oxygenators after declaring an acute medical emergency. Let's see how long this stock will survive,” he said in a worried tone.

Dr Tahseen said that the instruments companies were also not providing us oxygenators due to the issue of letters of credit (LC) not being issued by banks.

‘Incompetence and Mismanagement by Central Procurement Committee’

Sources privy to this development told TFT that there is alleged incompetence and mismanagement on the part of the Heart Diseases Central Procurement Committee (CPC), die to which we have reached a point where by-pass operations are on the brink of being stopped completely.

“The Central Procurement Committee, after wasting six months, had canceled the central rate contract for procurement of oxygenators,” a senior official privy to this development said, while adding that CPC had asked the PIC Lahore and other public heart facilities across the province to complete the process of the purchase of oxygenators on their own.

Agreeing with him, scientist Fatima Hussain Mehdi, who is an expert on the subject, said that oxygenators are special machines that act as lungs during surgical operations, and remove carbon dioxide from a patient’s blood while providing oxygen in return.

“These oxygenators are very important during cardiac and pulmonary surgeries. These are used in conjunction with heart lung machines,” she concluded.

A senior official at PIC, who was previously at the helm of affairs, told TFT that PIC and other public health facilities are left with very few oxygenators, and there is an acute shortage of it. “CPC wasted six months and now all of a sudden asked us to complete the procurement process on our own at the last moment, due to which cardiac surgeries are badly affected and are almost on the brink of being at a complete halt.”

Speaking to TFT, Ghulam Bibi, a widow who was present at the PIC with her only son, 35 years old Abbas Ali, said that she is begging all of them to conduct a by-pass for her son, who is fighting for his life but the hospital officials are repeatedly changing the date of the by-pass due to the shortage of oxygenators.

“I request Chief Minister Punjab Syed Mohsin Raza Naqvi and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to take notice of this on a priority basis,” she said in a choked voice.

Procurement of oxygenators – a huge challenge amid ban on imports 

The senior official further maintained that amid the ban on imports, it would be a huge challenge for the hospitals to procure oxygenators on their own.

“Even companies are not willing to supply oxygenators to hospitals, due a to hike in the price of the dollar, which is leading to a serious crisis,” the official said, while adding that the CPC only allowed procurement of cardiac stent purchases at high rates at its central rate contract, while it canceled the central rate contract for oxygenators and other essential disposable items which are essential for conducting heart surgeries.

The senior official said that since health is a top priority for caretaker Chief Minister Punjab Syed Mohsin Raza Naqvi, we request him to take notice of this and punish the officials who are behind this serious incompetence and mismanagement.

“Measures need to be taken on war footings for the procurement of oxygenators and other essential items for bypass surgeries, otherwise this crisis will only get worse,” he concluded.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy. He also hosts the Hassan Naqvi Show on Naya Daur.