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November 20, 2020

Surgeons played with lives before I joined NICVD, alleges ex-head of surgery


November 20, 2020

Mortality among patients operated on at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) three years ago was as high as 26 per cent, and one of its main reasons was the DNR (do not resuscitate) instructions given by cardiac surgeons to hospital staff to get the beds vacant and fill them with other patients as surgeons used to get money irrespective of success or failure of surgeries, claimed a former head of surgery at the hospital on Thursday.

“After my joining as head of surgery at the NICVD in 2017, mortality among operated upon patients reduced below 15 per cent within three months as I ordered DNR orders should only be coming either from the family or the ethics committee. I also decided no payment to be made to surgeons whose patients would be dying on the operation table,” said eminent cardiac surgeon Dr Pervaiz Chaudhry at a news conference.

The NICVD administration recently removed Dr Chaudhry and appointed Associate Professor Dr Asad Bilal Awan acting head of the Cardiac Surgery Department after he decided to suspend surgeries at all NICVD centres because several surgeons, nurses, technicians and other paramedics had tested positive for Covid-19. Levelling serious allegations against the NICVD administration, Dr Chaudhry said he was brought to Pakistan by Executive Director Prof Nadeem Qamar to revamp the surgery department at the NICVD where all 17 surgeons had “their own protocols” and all of them were “playing with the lives of people”.

“After joining as head of surgery, I ordered that no surgeon would be paid any fee if his or her patient dies on the operation table or immediately after the surgery. This reduced the mortality rate as they started the selection of patients wisely. Taking the lead, I decided to operate upon serious, critically-sick patients as I was a US-trained surgeon and had the experience of dealing with such patients.”

He maintained that he had also directed that DNR directives would not be given by the surgeons, who had earlier been in the habit of giving these orders to get the beds vacant. He said this also reduced the mortality rate at the hospital, and now all such orders came from either from the family of the patient or the ethics committee.

Commenting on the circumstances that led to the appointment of one of his disciples as acting head of surgery, Dr Chaudhry claimed that he ordered suspension of all cardiac surgeries on Sunday after several surgeons and staff tested positive for the coronavirus. He added that due to political reasons, the NICVD administration decided to continue cardiac surgeries and endangered the lives of patients as well as of surgeons.

“Covid-19 is raging on and spreading among surgical department staff of the NICVD too. I took the decision to save the lives of both healthcare providers and patients, but my directives were not followed, and, instead, one of my juniors was given the charge of head of surgery,” he claimed.

Dr Chaudhry further said that despite the appointment of his junior as head of surgery, he was still being contacted by hospital staff for advice, his clinic was receiving patients regularly and he had not been given any written directives in this regard. He declared that he would not be leaving the NICVD before 2022 as he had a plan to revamp the surgery department and make it the best in the country as per his five-year commitment with NICVD Executive Director Prof Nadeem Qamar.

Claiming that the NICVD also owed him millions of rupees as his remuneration and fee for surgeries, he said that on Wednesday night the NICVD administration conveyed to him that they owed him Rs80 million, but they could not pay the amount to him as they were under pressure from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which was investigating alleged irregularities at the health facility.

He also charged that Prof Qamar was being blackmailed by an employee, on whose directives he signed every document “like a clerk”.

“This guy is not even allowing the opening up of paediatric ICU at the NICVD, which was gutted several months back, despite its renovation. He is not a health management specialist or expert but drawing 1.8 million rupees as salary while consultant doctors are being given only one lakh to one and half lakh rupees as salaries,” he added. To a query, Dr Chaudhry said two of his LVAD (Left Ventricle Assist Device) patients were still under his treatment, and till they were alive, the NICVD could neither close this programme nor fire him as it would bring a bad name to the NCIVD and the hospital would become blacklisted for doing so.

NICVD rejects ‘baseless’ allegations

The National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases rejected the allegations levelled by its former head of cardiac surgery Dr Pervaiz Chaudhry as “baseless and a figment of his imagination”. The NICVD said he had made these accusations after his contract was not extended by the hospital administration.

“After expiry of his contract, Dr Pervaiz Chaudhry is not part of the NICVD anymore. As his contract was not extended, he is levelling baseless allegations,” the NICVD spokesman said, questioning why Dr Chaudhry did not raise voice against these issues when he was part of the NICVD team.

The spokesman said the NICVD had expanded into a network of 28 hospitals “from one facility in Karachi under the dynamic leadership of Prof Nadeem Qamar”. It said there were several doctors and surgeons who had been trained in the United States and were serving at the cardiac-care health facility.