With only three public hospitals in Punjab and one in Karachi offering treatment of rheumatic disorders in the country, hundreds of thousands of patients are forced to either visit private hospitals or approach quacks and unqualified persons for the treatment of their issues of bones, joints, ligaments and tendons, resulting in deformity and permanent damage.
The government must establish departments of rheumatological disorders and diseases at all the tertiary-care and teaching hospitals in the country, especially in major cities of the country, so that thousands of people facing muscle, bone and joint issues could avail quality treatment free of charge.
Rehabilitation centres should also be set up at public hospitals or separately in the major cities of the country with deployment of trained and qualified physiotherapists and experts of physical medicines to help people facing rheumatic disorders in living healthy and normal lives, who are nowadays living a miserable life due to the absence of rehabilitation facilities in the country.
These recommendations were made by national and international rheumatologists and experts on the closing day of a four-day Annual International Conference of the Pakistan Society of Rheumatology (PSR) at a hotel here on Tuesday.
The annual scientific moot, which started with a public awareness session last week, was formally inaugurated by President Arif Alvi on Friday last while over two dozen international and dozens of national rheumatologists from across Pakistan attended the moot and presented their papers, latest diagnostic techniques and modes of treatment during the conference.
The focus of the scientific moot, however, was on the prevention, early diagnosis and proper treatment of the rheumatic disorders as experts believed that delay in diagnosis and treatment of diseases could lead to permanent disability while prevention was the best approach in the country, which lacks trained and qualified rheumatologists, who are mostly serving at private hospitals, which charge exorbitant fees from patients facing issues of joints and muscles.
Speaking at the concluding ceremony, President PSR Dr Sumaira Farman Raja said that despite years of efforts and advocacy, there were only 60 rheumatologists in the country, who were spread over entire Pakistan, whereas the country required over 2,000 adult and at least 800 paediatric rheumatologists to treat such a large number of people.
Dr Sumaira Farman said that one in two adults suffer from musculoskeletal disorders and if not treated in time these diseases continue to cripple, blind, paralyse, maim or cause organ failure. In developing countries, these diseases are among the top causes of disability, she said and urged the media to promote awareness about these disorders so that people could be prevented from permanent disability and deformity.
Eminent British rheumatologist Dr Terrence Gibson said a large number of Pakistani people were having knee problems, and the biggest cause of this condition among them was being overweight while there could be several other causes of this condition.
Dr Gibson, who is a consultant and Clinical Lead for Rheumatology at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London, maintained that once a person has osteoarthritis, which is one of the most common chronic condition of joints, most people stop physical activity and avoid exercise which makes their disease worst as lack of physical activity weakens their muscles.
“I would suggest such people to try to reduce their weight and exercise regularly in consultation with some qualified rheumatologist. If required, get your knee replaced but that only be suggested by a skilled and qualified rheumatologist,” Dr Gibson said and urged people not to resort to self-medication as it could aggravate their disease.
The convener of the conference, Dr Mahfooz Alam, said that due to their efforts over the last 22 years, rheumatology was now well-recognised in the country, and it was even evident from the presence of President Arif Alvi, who graced the occasion and decided to attend the annual international conference of the Pakistan Society of Rheumatology in Karachi.
He maintained Pakistan needed a lot more rheumatologists to lower the disease burden as at the moment there were not more than 60-65 trained and qualified specialists of the field. He called for the establishment rheumatology departments at more public and private hospitals and healthcare institutions in the country.
Other eminent rheumatologists, including Dr Kamran Hameed and Dr Abid Azhar Farooqi, also spoke.