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PAKISTAN: Security fears hamper bomb victims' treatment

KARACHI, 10 February 2010 (IRIN) - Four days after two bomb blasts on the same day killed 35 people in Pakistan’s commercial capital, Karachi, injured survivors are still trickling into the accident and emergency department of the city’s Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC).

The second bomb went off outside the state-run hospital as it was receiving victims injured in the first blast, when a suicide bomber hit a bus.

“It seems patients are afraid of coming here,” Javed Iqbal at JPMC said. A day after the explosion, as the department re-opened, “hardly 30-40” patients had come in, compared to about 400 normally.

“There was mayhem out here when a suicide bomber hit the crowd of patients, those accompanying them, doctors, paramedics, volunteers and the ambulance teams bringing in people who were badly hurt. I received facial injuries myself, and all I could see was people lying still or screaming in pain with no one to help them,” Muhammad Javed, an ambulance driver, told IRIN.

At least two doctors and other JPMC staff members were among those injured. Patients at the emergency department were rushed to other hospitals, and Seemin Jamali, head of the hospital, urged the government to provide security assistance and training for a “war-like situation”.

“The thing is that security is never good at hospitals. It is not the kind of place that is guarded from terrorism. My son is a doctor, and now we are scared each time he goes to work,” Sumera Salim, 60, told IRIN. “Some neighbours whose child was very sick were too terrified to take him to a hospital the day after the blast, and brought him to our house so my son could take a look.”

Manhandled

Following the blast at JPMC, the Society of Emergency Physicians Pakistan (SEPP) has demanded better security at all hospitals. SEPP President Junaid Razzak told the media the blast outside the JPMC was an “unfortunate reminder of the lack of security arrangements at emergency departments in the country’s health system”.

The Sindh government has now tasked a committee to devise a security plan for hospitals.

“The problem also is that after violent incidents mobs pour into the emergency room. It is impossible to treat people when so many people are jostling you and demanding attention for their relatives. In some cases doctors have been manhandled,” said Muhammad Junaid, who now works with a pharmaceutical company. “I worked at a major government hospital, but faced several situations that left me fearful for my safety,” he said.

“I rushed to the JPMC to donate blood, because it is always needed in such situations. I was there when the second blast took place and in fact sustained injuries to my legs. My 14-year-old nephew who was with me was also hurt. Now I will think many times before any attempt to volunteer help in such situations. It has become way too dangerous,” student Ashfaq Ahmed, 22, said.

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Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition

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Copyright © IRIN 2010
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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