Who Is Responsible, Govt. or Doctors?
By Wajeeha Iftikhar
Karachi, Pakistan

Adila ran through the hospital doors with her ten-year old son in her arms. She looked about the halls, frantically, praying to find help for her dear child - anyone - but found nobody.

She ran around the hospital, sobbing, crying out to anybody in earshot. But the building seemed to be deserted.

Precious minutes passed, her son was just barely breathing. "Please hold on, beta," she whispered, kissing his forehead.

She approached the nearest bed in the ward - a young man sat half propped up, his leg in a cast, half dangling from a makeshift balance.

"Please, my son needs help, where is everyone?" she asked hoarsely.

The young man looked up first at her, then at the unconscious child in her arms.

"They are all out on strike," was the short reply. The man looked back at her sympathetically. Her son was a beautiful child, merely starting out in life, and here they were, in an empty hospital, the doctors on strike. A flower could wilt...

"They're out back," came a voice.

Adila looked around. An old woman was pointing at a door. She ran off and out into the bright sunlight, and camera flashes.

A conference. The media was there, recording the statement - declaration, the way he was saying it - of the head doctor.

"We will not work, treat anyone until we are paid!" He shouted. Young men and women in labcoats stood behind him, looking just as adamant as he sounded. The men and women in front of him looked - well, they looked like reporters, scrambling everywhere, recording videos, clicking cameras, taking notes, thrusting mikes into his face.

"Please!" A trembling voice from behind the doctors made everybody turn around. "Please! My son could die! Please help me! Help him!" She sobbed uncontrollably.

The media’s attention immediately shifted from the head doctor to the distraught mother with the injured child in her arms. The media would do anything for a juicy story.

"As I said, we are not treating anybody, until we get our four months salaries. If casualties are left unattended you have to blame the government."

"Please, please, sir, my son needs urgent care, he has lost blood, he can die if you don't do something, please help me! Don't you have any children?"

The man frowned, obviously irritated the way the media had suddenly shifted its attention from bereft doctors without salaries to a desperate mother begging for help. The focus had shifted. Why had this woman come here at this time, when it was going so well for all of them?

"You can take him elsewhere, we are on strike," was the cold reply.

The doctors all looked at her and her child, shifting uncomfortably, realizing their duties, and hesitating.

"I'll help you." A young lady doctor finally stepped forward, her eyes filled with unshed tears, her face almost void of emotion.

Ahmed took another shot of the stairs, the commotion, then looked at the screen of his new DSLR and smiled. He looked up again and speedily moved forward to help the doctor and the child's mother take him back inside the hospital.

"Here, let me help you." He said softly to Adila. She looked at him gratefully, her face was pale, her eyes as big as saucers as she went through the shock of almost losing her child, at the young man with his camera hanging over his shoulder, his id around his neck saying, 'Ahmed Iqbal'.

"Thank you," she struggled to whisper, as she let her son into his arms, and touched his cheek softly. "Just a little while, my sweet angel."

The lady doctor who had volunteered to help, was having a difficult time in convincing her colleagues to let her check the boy, they blocked her way as she tried to make her way inside.

"You are wasting precious time. He needs attention, look at him, he's bleeding, he's pale! He's just a child!" She cried out. "He can die!"

"Blame the government!" said a voice from within the crowd.

Adila looked up, turning around to face the doctors, irritated, angry, frustrated, worried, and completely heartbroken.

"The government!" she whispered, barely audible. "The government!" She moaned again. Microphones were thrust into her face.

Ahmed quickly and quietly carried away the young child, his breathing ragged, the doctor following close behind, the whole place now distracted with Adila's outburst.

"The government is not responsible for any of this! The government did not take the training of helping the sick. The government did not study in a medical college to help the injured! The government was not the one who took oath of helping patients and making their health your priority! The government has not spent years studying, burning the midnight oil, to be able to graduate from medical universities and help those who need your help. The government," she said, "does not have a healing hand. Is this why you spent years of studying, spent so much money, worked so hard? So you could stage strikes, block out the very purpose of becoming doctors? Did you take an oath to heal your patients, or did you take the oath to do strikes, earn a free living, blaming the government for your faults. The government," she took a deep breath. "If you are believers, answer me: who will the Almighty hold responsible for any unforeseen tragedy due to your strike? You, or the government?" Her eyes were now shooting daggers at them, and they stood there, their heads bowed, silent.

From behind her, the lady doctor came back out, putting a soft hand on her shoulder. She turned around. "Doctor!" She cried.

"Ma'am, I have done everything that I could, he needs blood, we had some O positive in our blood bank, we are transfusing it, since there was no time to know his blood group..."

"Is he okay?" Adila held the doctor by her collar, shaking her.

"He's alive ma'am. But..." The doctor held her hands.

"But what?" Adila almost shouted.

"He's in a coma. I'm sorry."

Adila let her go, staggered back, and dropped unconscious on the floor.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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