KARACHI: Only 235 mammography tests were conducted in the Sindh Government Hospital Liaquatabad in three years, showing that a majority of women, probably owing to social and cultural taboos, were unwilling to undergo the test, said Health Minister Dr Sikander Mandhro.
He was responding to questions during Friday’s Question Hour in the Sindh Assembly that pertained to the Sindh health department.
Responding to a question raised by Muttahida Qaumi Movement legislator Naheed Begum regarding mammography machines’ availability in only four hospitals — three in Karachi and one in Hyderabad — in the province, the minister agreed that there was a need to have more machines at other hospitals, but added that it was also necessary to create awareness among masses, particularly women, about such tests for early detection of cancer.
Responding to a question asked by Pakistan Muslim League-Functional legislator Nand Kumar regarding the availability of such machines in remote parts of the province, the minister said that seven machines had been procured and these were installed in mobile units so that these could travel all over the province, but it transpired that the electricity requirement of machines was high and could not be provided by the generators, so now efforts were being made to install these machines in divisional headquarters’ hospitals in Sukkur, Mirpurkhas, Nawabshah, Larkana, etc.
Responding to a question, the minister said that the test was expensive, but it was done free of charge and patients did not have to pay any fee or charges.
Stressing the need to create awareness of the disease and the tests, the minister said prevalence of cancer was high in the country. He said only 235 tests were conducted in a Karachi hospital in three years because patients could not be forced to undergo the test as they had to come forward voluntarily.
He agreed with Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf legislator Samar Khan that known women personalities be approached to give an impetus to the awareness campaigns, especially by delivering public interest messages through the media.
Responding to a question asked by MQM legislator Kamran Akhtar about why diabetes test strips were not being provided to diabetic patients in hospitals, the minister said that the strips were not to be provided to patients, but were available at hospital labs and technicians there conducted the tests to check the sugar level of patients.
He said that keeping in view the importance of these strips the government had directed that at least 10,000 diabetes test strips should always be available at hospitals and when the number goes below that figure the hospital chief could purchase these locally without seeking permission from high-ups.
Responding to a question raised by PTI legislator Khurram Sherzaman regarding providing house jobs to doctors, the minister said all doctors passing out of government colleges were provided house jobs in hospitals attached with the relevant colleges with stipend of around Rs50,000.
He said that stipend was fixed according to funds available in the budget, and earlier it used to be only a few hundred rupees; over the years the amount had been increased.
Replying to another question, he added that the doctors graduating from one college but doing house jobs at the hospitals that were not attached to their college were not paid stipend, because the government preferred that the doctors did house jobs in the hospitals of their colleges concerned.
Responding to a question asked by MQM legislator Naheed Begum regarding handing over of basic health centres to People’s Private Healthcare Initiative (PPHI), the minister said that 1,137 basic health facilities in 22 districts under an agreement had been handed over to the PPHI in 2013 and their performance — being monitored regularly on a monthly basis — was satisfactory.
Further extension in tenure would be considered in 2018 when the agreement would end, he added.
Responding to a question raised by Mr Akhtar regarding nursing teaching institutions, the minister said 13 such facilities — nursing schools, nursing college, etc — were operating and no fees was charged from nursing students, who were also not paid any stipend during the studies either.
He said that as the hospitals were facing shortage of nurses all the graduate nurses were recruited. The degrees were recognised internationally as well.
The written answer to a question says that 25 people died owing to dengue in Karachi during 2010, but the area-wise details of where these people lived was not available.
Written answer to another question says that only one child died owing to nutrition deficiency in Tharparkar between February 2014 and March 2014.
Answer to another question says that 374 children died between November 2013 and March 2014.
MQM legislators Sardar Ahmed, Qamar Rizvi, Sumeeta Syed, Amir Pirzada, Naila Muneer, and others also participated in the Question Hour.