Staff all shook up at hospital

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 20 Oct 2005

MANSERAH (Pakistan): Each time there is a strong aftershock tremor, everyone at the teaching hospital of Manserah jumps out the windows. 

The window is the quickest way to get out of the building. Their urgency has its basis. 

The radiologist, X-ray and lab technicians, and their helpers operate from the ground floor of a three-storey building damaged in the Oct 8 major quake. 

There are huge cracks on the walls. Rubble on the rooftop has yet to be cleared. 

SEEKING TREATMENT: Injured earthquake victims waiting outside the teaching hospital inManserah, Pakistan, on Tuesday.

No one knows if the building is structurally safe and, except for the radiologist, no other medical specialist has dared to venture inside. 

“We have seen how the multi-storey hospitals in other areas have collapsed. The aftershocks are so terrible. And there have been so many of those. This has become a seismic zone,” says eye specialist Dr Zulfiqar Ali. 

“Our building is not structured to withstand the shocks. Other doctors and I are very reluctant to go inside.” 

The lab technicians and hospital workers wait outside the hospital building and will only go in when there is work to be done. 

But those from the X-ray unit do not have that luxury. Many quake victims sustained fractures so the department's personnel are always busy. 

The earthquake-flattened town of Balakot is only 39km away from Manserah. 

Thousands of the injured were brought to Manserah for treatment. Doctors were ready for casualties within 15 minutes after the quake but they worked from outside the hospital. 

Radiographer Dr Ghayyur Khan says that in the first four days the X-ray department could work from outside because it had mobile X-ray units. 

But these units had since been taken away to other areas. 

“So we have no option but to get back in here. It has been very hectic for us. We are doing more than double the normal amount of X-rays,” Dr Ghayyur says. 

“There had been many aftershocks. In the first five days, it was 40 to 50 tremors a day though most were low-intensity ones. But there were strong ones too that made some of us jump out the windows. 

So why is he, the X-ray technicians and lab helpers doing it? 

“All these patients are injured. We cannot leave them,” he says. 

The only undamaged parts at the hospital are two single-storey wards and a maternity ward. The latter has been converted to an operating theatre, which opened for the first surgery three days after the quake. 

Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Syed Asif Shah has his hands full and hardly has time to talk. Since the operating theatre opened, he says, they have carried out 157 surgeries, 60 major ones. 

Despite their busy schedule and the emergency, all the doctors are fasting in this holy month of Ramadan. 

“Fasting is a actually a blessing. We don’t need to go for lunch and that way we don’t waste time. Besides, as Muslims we don’t want to die not fasting,” Dr Syed Asif quips.  

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