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Wednesday May 22, 2024

Virtual Psychiatric Clinic for Afghans progressing well

By Bureau report
May 14, 2024
In this representational image, patients can be seen in the hospital. —  Reuters/File
In this representational image, patients can be seen in the hospital. —  Reuters/File

PESHAWAR: The Online or Virtual Psychiatric Clinic facility launched in Peshawar for people in Afghanistan almost three years ago is progressing well as over 1000 patients have been treated so far.

“Apart from examining the patients online, selected counseling and therapy is done as well. We have followed up as many as 40 percent of patients,” said Professor Dr Khalid Mufti, a senior mental health expert and chairman of Horizon nonprofit organization that runs the online clinic at the Ibadat Hospital under its Afghan Support Programme.

According to a communication, he said this while speaking at a function, attended by the executive board members of the organization and people from other walks of life. Citing the reasons for embarking on the online clinic for the Afghans, Dr Khalid Mufti said there was a lack of lack of mental health experts and facilities in Afghanistan which had been going through turbulent times for the last 45 years.

He said the online clinic was launched on November 14, 2021, as the people of the war-torn brotherly neighbouring country faced problems while traveling to Peshawar to receive treatment for mental ailments. Dr Khalid Mufti said the project was initially co-sponsored by the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), Pakistan Psychiatric Society, Horizon Peshawar and the Fountain House, Lahore.

“Everyone contributed to some extent. But now the project has been taken over by Horizon,” he said while lauding the WSA chief Dr Afzal Javed for putting his weight behind the initiative and gracing the ceremony in Peshawar when the clinic was launched. Sounding satisfied with the progress achieved thus far, he said: “We also send medicines for Afghan patients through proper channels, obviously taking in view the limited funding at our disposal.”

“The Afghan patients examined online are found to be suffering from comorbidity - the condition when a patient with mental health illness also has other diseases such as diabetes, blood pressure,” he said while sharing the details with the audience. Dr Khalid Mufti said during the online clinic, it was observed that the staff at the state-run Khost Hospital dealing with patients with mental illnesses needed training in psychological counseling and therapies to better tend to the patients there.

He said keeping in view the very fact, Naqibullah Masoom, the focal person of the Online Clinic at Khost Public Health Department, was invited to Peshawar for training in various techniques at Ibadat Hospital in Peshawar and Fountain House, Lahore. Talking on the occasion, Naqibullah Masoom said the online clinic had proved to be a success as several patients had been treated through the facility. He said the recovery rate, too, was encouraging.

Explaining the procedure, he said the state-run hospital in Khost receives patients. “We select a particular number for the Online Psychiatry Clinic. They are asked to be at the hospital for the online examination every Tuesday”. Masoom said Prof Dr Khalid Mufti and his staff provided online consultation to the patients who turn up at the Khost Hospital.

“Ms Zara Sehar, a psychologist, takes the history from the patients. Dr Mufti offers consultation and prescribes medicines. The online clinic duration depends on the number of patients. The average tally of patients stands at 15”, he explained. About the availability of medicines to treat patients with psychological disorders, Masoom said those who could afford them were handed the prescription after the online consultation and asked to purchase the medicines from the market. But the poor ones were provided medicines free of cost received from Ibadat Hospital.

He said the government was working to address the mental health issue within the available resources. “International organizations such as the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, and Save the Children have also hired people for psycho-social counseling who perform duties at health facilities such as clinics. But more steps are needed to treat the patients with mental health,” he elaborated. When asked about the skills he had acquired during his stay at the Ibadat Hospital and Fountain House in Lahore, he said the training was a great experience and he was elated at the learning and the hospitality that he received during his stay here.

“Psychological counseling techniques are as important as medicines. I have acquired various skills during my stay here. I am returning to my homeland better equipped to deal with patients. I will apply these skills when back in my country. Such initiatives must continue,” said Masoom while thanking his hosts.