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MPAs talk about oxygen supply, races & women prisoners

By Hafeez Tunio

KARACHI: The morbid case of a patient who turned black — and then pink — because he was inadvertently given carbon dioxide instead of oxygen illustrated the growing issues with the supply of drugs to hospitals in Karachi.

The anecdote was narrated by Sports Minister Dr Mohammad Ali Shah in the Sindh Assembly on Tuesday, as lawmakers debated on a resolution calling for a ban on the sale of fake medicines.

According to Shah, an anaesthetist at the AO Clinic gave what he thought was oxygen to a patient in critical condition. “He started to turn black and the doctor then changed the cylinder. When he received gas from the other one the patient turned pink,” signifying his condition was improved once he actually received oxygen. The original cylinder turned out to be filled with carbon dioxide instead of oxygen.

“We confiscated the cylinder and have started an inquiry into the matter,” he said adding that many unauthorised companies have started supplying ‘oxygen’ in the city. “I will suggest to the government to only issue licences to reputable companies,” he added.

Shah said that this practice is putting patients’ lives at risk, and police station house officers (SHOs) should be held responsible if any company is found manufacturing fake medicines and supplying the ‘oxygen’ cylinders to hospitals. “I request this house to suggest at least three-year imprisonment and impose a fine on these people and companies,” he added.

The resolution was moved by PML-F MPA Nusrat Seher Abbasi who alleged that there has been no impact on the sale of substandard and fake medicines.

PPP MPA Jam Tamachi Unar, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee of the Sindh Assembly, stressed the need to form a house committee comprising doctors and assembly members to pursue the issue. “It is very unfortunate that there is a law, but there is a lack of will by the concerned department to implement it,” he said.

PPP’s Dr Ahmad Ali Shah said that the Sindh government is the biggest purchaser of medicine, and buys them at low rates from disreputable manufacturers. Since the medicines are not properly utilised at public hospitals, he alleged that these are then sold on the open market. “Drug inspectors are supposed to examine whether proper medicines are available at pharmacies and if companies are maintaining standards,” he said.

MQM parliamentary leader Sardar Ahmed said he was not clear whether the regulatory body to supervise drug manufacturing had been devolved to provinces.

Despite several successful raids in Godhra among other areas of the city the market for fake drugs exists. There is also a lack of a regulatory body for monitoring the price and quality control of medicines since the devolution of the Federal Drug Regulatory Authority. The house passed a resolution demanding the provincial and federal governments to enforce the law and take action against companies and pharmacies which manufacture fake medicines and sell them on the open market.

Ban imposed on racing

Racing on highways and main roads was made off-limits, as the Sindh home minister has announced the imposition of Section 144 on racing on these routes.

The decision came after a resolution was presented on the issue by MQM MPA Bilqees Mukhtar, who highlighted the injuries and deaths caused by the races but also that the police did not take any action against the ‘racers’. The police came in for criticism by MPAs, and the speaker asked Home Minister Manzoor Wassan to respond before the resolution was adopted. Initially Wassan said that this was not under his ministry’s control. “It is the motorway police who have to take action, not us,” he responded. When members and the speaker convinced him that it was the home department’s responsibility, he said, “Okay. I announce to impose ban on conducting this kind of race on main roads and highways.”

Illegal detention of six women at police station

MQM MPA Zareen Majeed also highlighted the case of six women and two infants, who have been detained for the last nine days or so by the Kamber Shahdadkot district police. Majeed said that the Naseerabad police had raided Bityun village near Wagan town and detained the women and children. Their only fault, Majeed said, was that they were distantly related to an alleged criminal. She demanded that a report of the incident be presented before the house.

11-year-old Malala to make her own party

Malala Yousufzai — a 11-year-old girl from Swat, who won the International Peace Award, said that she will make her own party comprising of educated people. She said this after she attended the session at the Sindh Assembly. Malala said that the hospitality shown by the people of Sindh was highly commendable. She received the International Peace Prize 2011 for raising her voice for girls’ schools in her area destroyed by militants.

On the other hand, the Government Girls Secondary School on Mission Road Karachi has been renamed as Malala Yousufzai Government Girls Secondary School with immediate effect in honour of the 11-year-old by the government of Pakistan.