Pakistan to let ex-PM Nawaz Sharif go abroad for medical treatment

Pakistani policemen stand guard on the gate of a hospital before shifting jailed Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif (unseen), in Lahore on November 6, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2019

Pakistan to let ex-PM Nawaz Sharif go abroad for medical treatment

  • Doctors in Pakistan ‘have failed to diagnose former prime minister’s ailment’

LAHORE: Pakistan’s ailing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif intends to travel abroad for medical treatment after his name has been removed from the country’s no-fly list, one of his senior party colleagues confirmed to Arab News on Friday.

Sharif was disqualified from holding public office by the country’s top court in 2018 and was subsequently sentenced to 10 years in prison when another court found him guilty of living beyond his stated means of income.

The former prime minister was probed in a money laundering case by the country’s anti-graft body, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), when he was taken to a hospital in Lahore.

The doctors performed various medical tests and administered different medicines, but Sharif’s ailment could not be diagnosed and his blood platelets count remained erratic and unstable.

“Nawaz Sharif will be traveling abroad for treatment as doctors in Pakistan have failed to diagnose his medical problem,” Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq told Arab News. 

“They have advised him to undergo medical tests that are not possible in Pakistan.”

The PML-N formally requested that the Interior Ministry remove Sharif’s name from the Exit Control List (ECL), the party confirmed on Friday.

“(The former prime minister’s brother) Shehbaz Sharif submitted an application in the Interior Ministry to strike off the ex-PM’s name from the ECL,” Haq said. “He will go abroad once that is done.”

Earlier in the day, PML-N vice president and Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, also demanded that her father be allowed to travel abroad for medical treatment.

“All treatment options in the country have been exhausted,” she told a group of journalists in Lahore.

“Doctors have used steroids, platelet-enhancing medicines and drips. However, nothing is working. They are still unable to diagnose the cause of his decreasing platelets, and that is a cause of concern.”

Dr. Mahmood Ayaz, who was leading the team of doctors that was treating Sharif at Lahore’s Services Hospital, suggested more medical tests be carried out, including a genetic examination which cannot be done in Pakistan.

“Certain medical tests — including a genetic test — is necessary to diagnose his disease. Genetic test facility is not available in the country and we have conveyed this to all concerned, including his family,” he told the media on the day Sharif was discharged from the hospital.

Maryam Nawaz said all necessary measures must be taken to save her father’s life.

“He must go abroad, if that is what it takes,” she told reporters.

Related


Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

Updated 08 July 2020

Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

  • Devastated family mourn latest victim of health system struggling to cope with outbreak

NEW DELHI: The death of an expectant mom and her unborn child after 13 hospitals in one day refused to treat her has put India’s strained health care system under the spotlight.

The devastated husband and 6-year-old child of eight-month pregnant Neelam Singh, 30, are still struggling to come to terms with the “unwarranted loss” a month after her agonizing death in an ambulance outside a hospital in New Delhi.

With more than 100,000 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Indian capital, Singh became another victim of a health system battling to cope with patient demand due to a lack of bed space and infrastructure.

That, however, has been little comfort for her family members who said they would never be able to overcome the trauma.

“Those 12 hours were the most traumatic experience of our lives, and we have to live with that trauma,” Shailendra Kumar, Singh’s brother-in-law, told Arab News on Tuesday. Singh had developed complications with her pregnancy on June 5, and Kumar said she was rushed to the same hospital in Noida, Uttar Pradesh where she had been going for regular checkups, but was turned away.

“Shivalik (hospital) gave no reason for refusing to admit her. Despite our pleadings, the hospital did not budge from its stand,” Kumar added.

A day-long ordeal ensued, with one hospital after the other unable to treat her. Eventually, she died in an ambulance some 35 kilometers away from her home in Khoda.

“I took her to 13 hospitals, both government and private facilities, and every one refused to admit her. The image of her writhing in pain will always haunt me,” said Kumar, who was accompanied by Singh’s husband. He added that the reasons provided varied from “high costs” to a lack of facilities.

“One hospital told me that I could not pay the high cost so better try my luck somewhere else. At Sharda Hospital in Greater Noida, I was asked to buy a coupon for COVID-19 treatment for 4,500 rupees ($60), which I did, but still, they refused her entry. It was not the loss of one life but two lives,” he said, referring to her unborn child.

He pointed out that the entire family was in a state of shock following her death with her husband “the worst impacted.”

Kumar filed a complaint against Shivalik and other hospitals but said so far “no action has been taken.”

A day after Singh’s death, the district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar, which Noida falls under, ordered an inquiry and issued instructions for all hospitals “to admit patients regardless of the nature of the case.”

However, 20 days later, on June 26, a similar incident was reported in the Dadri area of Noida.

On that occasion, 21-year-old Robin Bhati had developed a fever, and relatives had taken him to a nearby hospital where a week earlier he had been admitted suffering from influenza. However, the hospital refused to admit him and referred him to a different facility.

Five hours and four hospitals later, a city hospital agreed to take him in, but by then Bhati was already seriously ill and hours later he died after suffering a heart attack.

“We don’t know whether he was a COVID-19 patient or not, but why should hospitals refuse to admit a patient in need of immediate attention,” his uncle Jasveer Bhati told Arab News. A number of the Noida hospitals which allegedly denied admission to Singh and Bhati refused to comment on the cases.

In a statement on Monday, the office of Noida’s chief medical officer said: “Strict instructions have been given to all the private and government hospitals to admit all patients showing COVID-19 symptoms.”

Dr. Loveleen Mangla, a pulmonologist working with Noida-based Metro Hospital and Heart Institute, said: “The government did not prepare itself to face this situation. Now the government is trying to create extra beds and medical facilities, but it’s late. They should have done this three months ago when the nationwide lockdown started.

“With the entire medical infrastructure overstretched and not many quality health workers available in the government hospitals, it’s a grim scenario now,” Mangla added.

With more than 723,000 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, India is now the world’s third worst-affected country after the US and Brazil, with approaching 21,000 people losing their lives.

And the problem is not unique to northern India.

On Saturday, the southern Indian city of Bangalore reported the case of 50-year-old Vasantha, who was rejected by 13 hospitals before she was accepted by the K.C. General Hospital where she eventually died.

Lalitha, a relative of Vasantha, said: “Some hospitals said they didn’t have beds; some said they didn’t have COVID-19 testing facilities, and that way we lost critical hours. She died because of a problem with her respiratory system.”

Experts have questioned whether health care facilities in India are being overstretched purely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Anant Bhan, a Delhi-based independent researcher in global health, policy and bioethics, said: “Is there a real shortage of beds or is it the shortage caused by lack of efficient management? If the cases increase further, we might find it difficult to provide care.”