Wednesday, August 31, 2016

In the name of the concrete jungle

Lahore which is known as the cultural hub of the country is being shamelessly turned into a concrete jungle in the name of development, Paris and whatever the political diatribe can come up with. Recently one of the representatives of the ruling party in response to the high court’s decision on the Orange Line said that they will be contesting the decision and that there is no stopping the Orange Line because this is a gift to the people of the city from the provincial government.
That marketer in me couldn’t help drawing parallels between this statement and the marketing and product development ideology that states that the consumers don’t know what they want and it is our job to show it to them. After all this is exactly how we got our cars and smartphones and what not. My train of thought came to a halt when a portion of my grey matter started yelling that there has to be a difference in the mentality of an elected government and a private business!
The talk show ended, I flipped the channel and life moved on until the very next day, I encountered this mental exercise in a more practical form.
My mother, (a doctor who just recently retired from her government service as an anatomist at her alma mater, Fatima Jinnah Medical University) was diagnosed with renal failure due to auto-immune disease three years ago and is on dialysis. The said day which happened to be a Saturday she came back from her dialysis as usual and around evening started complaining of a splitting head ache, which after on call consultation with her doctors and prescribed medication settled only to resurface late night with vengeance. When repeating the medication didn’t help, we rushed her to Jinnah Hospital’s emergency.
Stepping in the emergency section and the place was a complete contrast from the quite night time outside. By this point my mother’s head ache throbbing pain in her optic nerve and just to be sure that there was no underline problem she explained her issue at the main desk and was told that the eye department is on the second floor. Heading to the second floor, the elevator was out of order! My father and I helped her to the second floor through stairs. The on duty doctor examined her told her it was a case of cluster headache, and it would be treated in the Medicine section on the ground floor.  
Fast forward to the Medicine section. Utter chaos is the only decent term I can think of to describe what was happening there. The place is running way below capacity, is under staffed and under equipped. There were two patients to a bed and a many more stationed outside the door. At the doctors’ station my mother with borderline slurring explained her condition and whatever treatment she had taken so far. She didn’t mention that she too was a doctor, she had other pressing issues on her mind plus she thought that her technical lingo would be que enough. It was not. Once she was done, the doctor asked us to go sit on a bed and vacate the chair my mother had occupied. My father and I looked around for a bed and on finding non vacant stated the obvious and were told to go share one because that is how it is. Take it or leave it. This was the end of my father’s already borderline patience and matching the doctor’s rude tone he reinforced that my mother is an auto-immune patient (and a doctor), how in their right mind did they expect her to share a bed with another patient?
Given the overall lack of hygiene, sadly it was not her condition but my mother’s title and my father’s tone that got the other side’s attention. A senior doctor materialized, examined her; the sole nurse was called around to give her the prescribed inject and oxygen (one mask for all which was cleaned when asked for). With all the wheelchairs occupied, we dragged my near drowsy mother and brought her back home.
It is not just Jinnah Hospital, enter any government run hospital, the sights and stories are the same. Private hospitals have their own set of issues. These past three years, the reason my mother has survived protected against all the usual issues that patients with her disease contract is due to the combination of all the prayers behind her and my father who is watching over her like a hawk, forcing the hospital staff wherever she goes for treatment to actually practice the hygiene principles that are written all over but like most other things conveniently ignored.        
Is it too much to ask that instead of running the cultural hub of the country, the gift to the people should be in the form of standardized basic facilities that are the actually responsibility of the State, health, education and human rights? But then may be it is indeed too much to ask those ingrained with a business mindset to prioritize actual governance over their personal profit. 

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