The Sindh High Court (SHC) has sought a report on the number gynaecologists available in government hospitals who are trained to perform the surgery to repair obstetric fistula.
The court issued the directives to the health department on Tuesday while hearing a petition calling for the utilisation of funds for a national programme to control maternal deaths. The petitioners, including Dr Shershah Syed, said that around 5,000 women die during pregnancy in Sindh every year because of a lack of healthcare facilities in rural areas. They said there is a shortage of medical care facilities as well as trained staff to attend to the expecting mothers and handle deliveries.
According to the petitioners, the government had launched the Maternal and Newborn Child Health Programme many years ago, however, the funds allocated for the programme were never utilised. More than 1,500 fistula patients hail from the province where a majority of government hospitals do not provide fistula repair surgeries, they said, requesting that the government be held accountable for the lack of timely and adequate treatment and violation of women’s rights to life and dignity as per the Constitution.
Obstetric fistula is a tear that develops between the birth canal and bladder or rectum usually during a prolonged labour or difficult delivery, and causes the uncontrolled leakage of urine or faeces or both.
The petitioners asked that the authorities be told to ensure access to affordable treatment of obstetric fistula to all women in Sindh. They said the government should ensure that at least one qualified gynaecologist in every district was trained and equipped to provide fistula repair surgery. Dr Syed Khalid Bukhari, a program director for maternal, neonatal and child health programme, submitted a compliance report of an earlier court order mentioning that a sum of Rs11,760,000 has been approved in the revised PC-I for training of gynaecologists and nursing staff with regard to the treatment of fistula patients.
He submitted that there was the possibility that funds will be released by the finance department within 10 days and this amount will be available for the establishment of four centres at government-run hospitals in Larkana, Sukkur and Jamshoro.
The provincial law officer said that further compliance of the petition may be kept pending as an issue of public importance is involved. The court directed Additional Secretary Health Jamaluddin to submit a report on how many gynaecologists are available in government-run hospitals who are trained to perform the surgery to repair fistula.
An SHC division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar directed the provincial law officer and additional secretary health to file their respective reports on October 17. The court directed that a copy of the order be also transmitted to the finance secretary for release of funds at an early date so that proper arrangements may be made for fistula repair initially in four centres which are mentioned in the report of provincial program director maternal, neonatal and child health programme Sindh.