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Opinion

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April 16, 2018

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A facility unmatched

I presume everyone knows that, besides nuclear technology achievements, I am also very active in the social sector. I have established, or helped to establish, many educational and medical institutions.

At the moment, my colleagues, friends, philanthropists and I are engaged in setting up a 300-bed social welfare hospital in Lahore. In this gigantic project, people who have greatly helped and assisted include Mr Shaukat Virk (executive director), Mr Hussain Ahmad Shirazi, Dr Saeed (former head of Sheikh Zayed Hospital), Mr Ansar Javed (former chairman of EBR), Dr Saeed Elahi (chairman Hilal-e-Ahmar Pakistan), Mr Qaiser Amin Butt, along with and many philanthropists – notably Mr Arif Habib, Mr Nasim Khan and late Khan Zaman Khan.

During my last visit to Lahore, I met a very good friend, Dr Saeed Akhtar, a US-trained and highly competent urologist. He has made it his life’s mission to serve humanity, especially Pakistanis suffering from kidney and liver problems. He was formerly the head of the urology department at Shifa International Hospital, a state-of-the-art hospital.

Very often, a good thing is achieved by divine intervention. Just as Mr Bhutto was the main facilitator of our nuclear programme, Shahbaz Sharif turned out to be the facilitator for the Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute and Research Centre (PKLI&RC). He not only approved the concept, but also provided 60 acres of land and gave $200 million for this important project. The project was conceived by Prof Dr Saeed Akhtar, Dr Syed Nayer Mahmood and their colleagues. They did everything possible to achieve its inception.

The foundation stone of the centre was laid on August 14, 2015, and this mega hospital was planned to be launched in phases. The first phase was launched in December 2017 with a wide range of services, including OPD, in-patient facilities, pathology, clinical laboratory, pharmacy, two operating rooms, intensive care services and radiology. By the time it is completed, the PKLI will be a facility of 800 beds, with a 100-bed emergency centre, a 100-bed ICU, a 100-bed outpatient dialysis facility, a 500-bed in-patient facility, 20 operating rooms and 10 same-day surgery suites. It is the only hospital in Pakistan designed as per the standards of the Joint Commission International Association, ensuring not only state-of-the-art patient care but also keeping patients safety in mind.

It will be fitted with the most modern equipment so as to perform complicated medical and surgical procedures, including robotic surgery, to minimise the level of trauma from surgery. Other complicated procedures, offered at only few centres in Pakistan, will also be offered, among other highly specialised kidney and liver transplants. This will help save the country hundreds of thousands of dollars by not having to send patients to India or elsewhere for treatment, and will also enhance our achievements, dignity and respect. The centre will also save them from a lot of inconvenience. Haemodialysis has already been initiated, with an emphasis on sterilisation procedures to ensure that no patient contracts viral hepatitis.

Realising the high burden of liver diseases in Pakistan, the Hepatitis Prevention and Treatment Programme was planned in 2016 and the first prevention and treatment clinic was launched in Lahore, in March 2017. This programme provides the most modern diagnostics and treatment services, completely free of cost, under the supervision of US and UK-trained doctors. Under this programme it has been planned to set up clinics in 25 districts of Punjab, out of which 22 have already been launched.

To date, more than 100,000 people have been screened, vaccinated and treated and about 3,000 patients are being served every day. Trained doctors at the institute keep in touch with these satellite clinics from Lahore using advanced communication technology. They study patients’ reports and help guide local doctors regarding the treatment. In pursuit of a hepatitis-free Pakistan by 2030, the PKLI also regularly conducts community engagement and awareness activities.

The institute’s team has also played a key role in promulgation of the Hepatitis Bill, 2017. The centre is promoting the culture of research to gather national and international scientists and clinicians on one platform to carry out an innovative research. The PKLI is also collaborating with LUMS, where the centre’s researchers work in LUMS’ laboratories, whereas LUMS’ scientists work at the PKLI to obtain clinical material. The hospital’s complex will also include a university to build human resource by providing a world-class education and research facilities at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. It is hoped that they will set a new benchmark in the healthcare sector of Pakistan. The transplant and research institute is proud to reverse the brain drain in Pakistan’s healthcare industry. The hospital’s pool of 70 internationally trained and experienced consultants is unmatched in Pakistan.

This brings to mind an interesting event. When Dr I H Usmani (a PhD from London) was replaced as chairman Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, he told Mr Bhutto that Pakistan did not have the infrastructure or trained man-power to make nuclear weapons (true at the time). He later joined the UN, dealing with energy where our very able and knowledgeable former foreign secretary Mr Riaz M Khan once met him in New York. During a conversation, Dr Usmani told him that a young man (meaning me) was taking Mr Bhutto for a ride by claiming to make nuclear weapons by some Madhani-type machine (a butter-making churner). Later, after we had made the weapons, he told Mr Riaz Khan that he was really surprised that Dr Khan had made the impossible possible by using centrifuge technology.

Imagine the consequences had someone said that to Mr Bhutto and had he listened to them and terminated the programme. It was this same luck that went Prof Dr Saeed Akhtar’s way. Luckily for him, the chief minister did not seek the advice of some ill-informed bureaucrat.

Email: [email protected]

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