Pakistani hospitals cut staff as Afghan patients drop

Islamabad:Private hospitals in Peshawar city of Pakistan have begun to lay off employees due to a decrease in number of Afghan patients following the implementation of border management measures, senior doctors said. "We cannot maintain more staff now. The number of patients has plummeted to 10 per cent only. We have lost 90 per cent patients who used to come from different parts of Afghanistan for treatment," Dawn online on Friday quoted a senior doctor at a private hospital in Hayatabad as saying. He said private health facilities were mostly dependent on Afghan patients and they will have to sack more staff in the coming months. According to the doctor, the hospitals were not receiving patients and due to it they were terminating services of their employees. "We laid off a few technicians, doctors and Class-IV employees owing to decline in number of patients. "We have been requesting the government to allow the Afghan patients for treatment in Pakistan as health facilities will face closure if the situation remains the same," the doctor said. Another hospital has already sacked nine employees and was likely to terminate the services of about 200 more in the near future. "Since we started operations, number of patients grew day by day for which we hired doctors ... but now more than half of employees seem surplus," said a physician. He said the employees also realised the situation and were applying for jobs elsewhere. Specialised health services were not available in Afghanistan and patients travelled to Peshawar before enforcement of legal restrictions on cross-border movement. A gate was installed on the Pakistan-Afghan border by Pakistani authorities to keep a check on the flow of immigrants. Now those Afghans who have valid visas are allowed to enter Pakistan. It affects the business of private hospitals in Peshawar. Keeping in view the flourishing business, doctors had started three big organisations in Hayatabad but the sector was showing signs of decline now. A doctor said they operated on about 40 patients every day, but "now only 10 patients are operated upon for which two medics are required. Four technicians of the six will lose their job". The doctors said the hospitals would be closed if the situation persisted. They demanded a legal procedure to permit Afghan patients to enter Pakistan.