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August 29, 2016
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How to save Rehan

Opinion

August 29, 2016

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Rehan Rind is a 21-year-old student from the Khuzdar district of Balochistan. He was studying in an institute in Karachi when it was diagnosed that he had blood cancer. This was nothing less than a shock for Rehan and his family because now they will have to bear a cost of more than Rs5 million for his life-saving treatment.

It has been over a month now that Rehan is under treatment in a hospital in Karachi. In order to pay for his treatment a mass campaign has been started by members of the civil society in different parts of Balochistan. Volunteers from ‘Quetta Online’ and other volunteer groups are collecting donations for the treatment of Rehan on a daily basis and social media is also being used for this purpose using the hashtag #SaveRehan.

Rehan is not the first case of its nature where the civil society has come to the rescue of a blood cancer patient. In the recent past at least two other patients were helped in a similar way. These include Hajira Bibi, a 16-year-old girl from Kharan, and Shemureed Baloch, an 18-year-old student from the Nushki district of Balochistan.

The reason civil society members have to beg people for donations for patients like Rehan is that there is no government-sector hospital in Balochistan which can treat cancer patients. Treatment is very expensive in private hospitals in Karachi and elsewhere.

There is a rampant increase in the number of blood cancer patients from Balochistan. The highest numbers of cases are reported from the Rakshan belt of Balochistan which includes Nushki, Chagai, Kharan and Washuk districts. Why are these cases appearing from one geographical belt of Balochistan? This needs to be investigated by the health department.

Moreover, it is a fact that each and every patient of blood cancer can’t be treated in the private hospitals of Karachi due to the high costs involved. At the same time, it is also not possible to collect donations for each and every patient who is suffering from cancer. The only feasible solution in this situation is the establishment of a proper cancer hospital in Balochistan.

The establishment of a state-of-the-art cancer hospital would require billions of rupees. This amount can easily be arranged if there is will in the government. In the budget for FY 2016-17, Rs71 billion was allocated for development. In the next budget it would not be difficult for the government to set aside sufficient funds for a cancer hospital.

Likewise, the Punjab government announced five years ago that it would build a cardiology hospital in Balochistan at a cost of Rs1 billion. However, that project has not been materialised to date due to unknown reasons. The Balochistan government can ask the Punjab government to re-allocate that amount for a cancer hospital.

Another option can be a Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital in Quetta. Imran Khan has successfully built a cancer hospital in Lahore. Now, his foundation is on the brink of finishing the construction of another hospital in Peshawar. It is obvious that Quetta should be the third stop and an aggressive philanthropic campaign should be carried out by Imran Khan and his team to provide the people of Balochistan a cancer hospital as well.

Moreover, once funds are arranged for a public-sector hospital then the question arises on who will manage it and what approach should be used to make it effective. It certainly can’t be the health department which is already in a shambles in Balochistan. This was seen in the August 8 Quetta blast.

Reportedly, more than 30 lawyers after the blast died due to excessive blood loss, notwithstanding the fact that the blast took place inside the largest public-sector hospital of Quetta. Therefore, it would be too much to expect from the health department to establish a cancer hospital and run it effectively on its own.

In that context, the Balochistan government needs to make the proposed cancer hospital autonomous and free from the interference of the health department bureaucracy. On the design of the Balochistan Institute of Nephrology and Urology Quetta (BINUQ), a separate board of directors should be constituted for the proposed cancer hospital. The management of the hospital should be empowered to recruit professionals and make decisions on how to spend funds. If this hospital is managed in a conventional way then it will soon be another victim of corruption, bad governance and nepotism.

The establishment of a cancer hospital is no doubt a very ambitious project but at the same time it’s also very needed. If this decision is not taken on an urgent basis then it is feared that several precious lives will be lost to different forms of cancer in Balochistan.

Till the time the idea of a cancer hospital materialises, all affluent people in Pakistan should contribute towards saving the life of Rehan Rind and several others like him who are suffering from cancer in Balochistan.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @iAdnanAamir

 

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