Nine dead in Pindi, Islamabad amid unrelenting heatwave

“We issued warning of 4-6 degrees above normal temperatures in Islamabad... well before start of heatwave," PMD says

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Our Correspondent
A biker covers his face with a piece of cloth to protect himself from heatwave in Rawalpindi on June 10, 2023. — Online
A biker covers his face with a piece of cloth to protect himself from heatwave in Rawalpindi on June 10, 2023. — Online

  • Malfunctioning air-conditioning system at PIMS increased concern.
  • Health minister reprimands hospital administration.
  • Four who succumbed to heatstroke were brought dead to hospital.

ISLAMABAD: Nine people lost their lives due to heatstroke as the twin cities — Rawalpindi and Islamabad — remained gripped by a brutal heatwave on Sunday.

Four of the deceased were brought to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), where its malfunctioning air-conditioning system amid excessive heat and humidity posed a concern to the already deteriorating condition of patients.

On the other hand, Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel visited PIMS after receiving several complaints about the lack of facilities, scarcity of medicine and X-ray films at the hospital.

He immediately summoned the hospital's administration, reprimanding them for the deplorable conditions, particularly the issue of a malfunctioning air-conditioning system, which also hindered the work of medics at the facility. 

The minister was informed that the air-conditioning system was outdated and urgently required attention for restoration.

The four people who died due to heatstroke in Islamabad during the last 24 hours were ‘brought dead’ at the PIMS, Islamabad, while several patients who suffered heatstroke in the last few days were treated and discharged when their condition stabilised, officials at the PIMS said on Sunday.

Ironically, no preventive measures were taken either by the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination or the PIMS administration following a heatwave warning issued by the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) prior to the start of extremely hot and humid weather.

“We had issued a warning of 4-6 degrees above normal temperatures in Islamabad and other plain areas of the country well before the start of the heatwave. Our warning was issued on June 20 regarding a severe heatwave in the capital and other plain areas from June 21-25, 2023,” an official of the PMD said, deploring that no action was taken on their advisory, which resulted in the loss of some lives.

On the other hand, the PIMS administration denied reports of any death at the health facility due to extreme heat, saying four people had been brought dead at the health facility by the district administration, who probably died due to heatstroke. 

They said all possible assistance was being provided to facilitate the patients and their attendants at the healthcare facility.

“At least four people were brought dead at the hospital’s emergency by the district administration on Saturday, who probably died due to heatstroke during extreme heatwave-like conditions. We have complete evidence that these people were not alive when they were brought at the health facility,” Dr Mubashir Daha, a spokesman for the PIMS, told The News.

He claimed that they received over a dozen patients of heatstroke last week from different areas of Islamabad but all of them were treated and discharged when their condition improved. 

To a query, he said nine air-conditioning units had been installed at the old emergency building of PIMS on Saturday while efforts were being made to get the central cooling system functional as early as possible. 

“Public Works Department is working on the installation of central cooling system at the health facility and they have given us the deadline of June 30 for the completion of project."

"Today, the health minister also spoke to the secretary Works and requested him to get the project completed at the earliest,” he added. 

But surgeons and doctors in many wards complained that patients were suffering in the intensive care unit (ICU) and wards due to extreme heat as their wounds were getting infected in the absence of a cooling system at wards.

“Patients who had surgeries suffered the most in the absence of a cooling system. The maintenance guys disconnected our ACs for central cooling system, which is yet to start. Several patients got infections following surgeries in the last 3-4 days,” a senior surgeon at PIMS claimed.

Medicine experts said several patients with high-grade fever also suffered due to extreme heat in the absence of a cooling system, while attendants and medical staff also remained in agony due to the lack of a cooling system.

Doctors also criticised the Health Ministry for its failure to preempt the problems of patients, attendants and doctors when the Pakistan Meteorological Department had already issued an advisory on extreme heatwave-like conditions in the country, including the capital, Islamabad.

“Sindh Health Department acted promptly after heatwave warning by the met department but the Ministry of Health remained sleeping despite knowing that their hospitals were in shambles. The administration of PIMS also kept mum and did not take any preventive measures,” a young doctor, who requested anonymity, said.