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March 14, 2019

‘Only 60 rheumatologists practising in Pakistan’


March 14, 2019

Pakistan is facing an acute shortage of trained and qualified rheumatologists, medical practitioners who are specialised in treating diseases of joints, muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons, experts said on Tuesday, adding that in a country where 15 to 20 per cent of the population was suffering from rheumatic diseases, there were only 60 rheumatologists who were practising in the major cities of the country at some tertiary-care hospitals.

“Only one public hospital in Karachi, i.e. Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), has just started a rheumatology department while a couple of private hospitals offer treatment for rheumatological diseases where only well-to-do people of the society can afford treatment of their rheumatic ailments,” said Dr Syed Mahfooz Alam, consultant rheumatologist at the Liaquat National Hospital (LNH), while addressing a news conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC).

Giving details of the upcoming 23rd Annual International Conference of the Pakistan Society for Rheumatology (PSR), which is being organised from March 14-17, 2019, in Karachi at the Hotel Reagent Plaza, Dr Mahfooz Alam said they had been striving for creating awareness about rheumatic diseases and disorders for last 22 years and in this regard they were annually holding these rheumatology conferences.

“The 23rd Annual International Conference of the Pakistan Society for Rheumatology being held in Karachi from March 14 to 17, 2019, would provide a great platform to both national and international rheumatologists to discuss and share rheumatic diseases, their causes, prevention, treatment and advancements in their cure with local people,” said Dr Alam said, who is also the convener of the PSR-19 Conference.

Accompanied by Prof Shakil Baig, professor of Rhematology at Baqai University Hospital, Dr Amir Riaz, Consultant Rheumatologist at Liaquat National Hospital and Dr Uzma Erum Fellow of Rheumatology at LNH, he said woman in Pakistan were more prone to rheumatological diseases for being overweight, living a sedentary lifestyle and having unhealthy and unbalanced diet.

He stated that rheumatology is the medical speciality which deals with diseases of joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. Only very few people manage to approach trained and qualified rheumatologists for the treatment of their diseases. “The majority of people, especially poor people, visit quacks, Hakeems and specialised practitioners, who give them medicines and supplements which result in progression of their diseases.”

Dr Alam said that keeping in view the importance of this speciality, over 23 international rheumatologists, experts and researchers from different countries of Europe, including United Kingdom and Norway, as well as from the Middle East had confirmed their participation in the conference, which was a big achievement in the promotion of rheumatology in Pakistan. “President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi has consented to be the chief guest at its inauguration on March 15 in Karachi,” Dr Alam said.

Another consultant rheumatologist Prof Shakil Baig said only three public hospitals in Punjab and one in Karachi had a rheumatology department while a few private hospitals were offering rheumatology treatment services, which was not enough for a country of over 207 million people.

“There is a need for the promotion of this speciality at the public sector so that poor people could be provided quality treatment free of charge as at the moment only wealthy and educated class of our society visits rheumatologists for treatment of their diseases,” Prof Biag added.

According to the expert, only 10 per cent of Pakistan’s children drink at least two glass of milk, which is required to provide one gram of calcium to them for healthy bones and joints. He urged the media to promote the importance of a healthy diet for children as well as women and elderly so that they could protect themselves from rheumatic disorders.

Consultant rheumatologist Dr Amir Riaz and Dr Uzma Amir shared details of the public awareness session to be held on the first day of the conference on Thursday at 2pm on March 14.

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