Patient safety

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SPECIAL Assistant to Prime Minister on Health, Dr. Zafar Mirza, has referred to the ‘unholy alliance’ between medical professionals and the medial industry as one of the biggest threats to the safety of patients. Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the 4th International conference on Patient Safety in Islamabad, he said the nexus needs to be broken without further delay if the interests of patients are to be safeguarded.
The existence of the problem is common place knowledge but it is, perhaps, for the first time that the man who matters much in the medical sector in the present set-up has acknowledged not just its existence but also the need for addressing the challenge. This realization augurs well for safeguarding interests of the patients and hopefully based on his intimate knowledge the Special Assistant, who wields necessary powers and authority, would initiate concrete measures to break this unholy alliance. Those who enter the medical profession make tall claims and commitments at the beginning of their career but regrettably during practical life most of them become victim to personal greed and care little about the noble cause of serving the ailing humanity. Unfortunately, it has become a norm to fleece patients in the name of unnecessary tests and prescription of unrelated or unwanted medicines just to get commission from laboratories and pharmaceutical companies. Laboratories invariably enter the name of the referring doctor in the cash memos and understandably a percentage of the income so generated goes to the doctor concerned. Pharma companies also resort to a sort of bribe by offering free but so-called sample medicines to practising doctors besides giving them a percentage for prescribing some particular medicines to their patients. Incidentally, Dr. Zafar himself narrated an episode where a formula milk company sent 40 paediatricians to Spain last month on a five-day leisure trip in the garb of a conference. In return, these paediatricians were supposed to prescribe formula milk of the said company for babies in place of breast milk. Unethical practices of physicians also include referral of patients to some particular labs and denial to accept tests of other labs, proposing surgeries (operations) when the disease can be cured through medicines and caesarean section despite bright chances of a normal delivery. Not to speak of such tactics, some of the members of the medical profession are also allegedly involved in the abhorring business of organ trafficking and are part of baby-selling rings. Dr. Zafar would do a great service to the country if he succeeds in eliminating such practices.