An elderly woman died after a former security guard posed as a doctor while performing surgery at a Pakistani hospital. The guard put the patient’s life in danger on the operating table, even though a registered technician was present during the procedure. It’s a haunting case of mistaken identity that will keep any patient up at night. So, how did this imposter make it all the way to the operating room?
Records show that Muhammad Waheed Butt used to work as a security guard at Mayo Hospital in Lahore, Pakistan. His employers say they fired him two years ago for trying to extort money from patients. However, that didn’t stop him from working at the hospital.
“Butt had posed as a doctor and made home visits to other patients in the past also,” said a staff member from the hospital, who wishes to remain anonymous.
During the procedure in question, Butt posed as a doctor while trying to treat a patient’s back wound. The patient, Shameema Begum, 80, died just two weeks after the botched operation.
The family brought Begum back to the hospital after her bleeding and pain got worse. That’s when they discovered Butt was anything but a surgeon.
“We can’t keep up with what every doctor and what everyone is doing at all times. It’s a large hospital,” an administrative official explained. They said it’s not clear what procedure Butt was performing, but there was a registered technician in the operating theatre to supervise.
Begum’s family had paid Butt for the failed procedure as well as two home visits for follow-up care before the situation was realized.
Butt has since been charged and arrested for his alleged crimes, according to the local authorities.
Begum’s body is being held at the hospital for an autopsy, so officials can find out whether the cause of death is related to the botched procedure.
A Pattern of Impersonation
Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time someone has posed as a doctor in Pakistan. In early May of this year, a man was arrested for posing as a doctor at Lahore General Hospital, where he also used his fake title to extort money from patients in the surgical ward.
In 2016, a woman posed as a neurosurgeon. Authorities say she performed various operations for eight months alongside qualified doctors at Lahore’s Services Hospital, the second-largest healthcare facility in the country.
It seems some people are treating the healthcare field as a get-rich-quick scheme. They pose as a doctor in order to collect money from patients and their family members.
There is currently just one doctor for every 1,764 persons in Pakistan, leaving gaps in the country’s medical system. For adequate population coverage, experts say the country needs at least two doctors for every 1,000 persons. Many medical professionals choose to work overseas for better pay and safer working conditions.
Pakistan currently ranks 154th out of 195 countries in terms of overall healthcare system performance. It’s made up of both private and public institutions. The private sector serves around 70% of the population. Private facilities tend to outperform their public counterparts. Many people are willing to pay for healthcare out of their own pockets if it means getting better care. Statistics show that around 78% of the population continues to pay for healthcare on their own.
While the system has gradually improved over time, COVID-19 is pushing the country to its limits. Around 3% of all positive cases have occurred in frontline healthcare workers.
Finding a doctor in Pakistan is proving difficult. Let’s just hope they are who they say they are.