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September 19, 2019

No light at end of tunnel for cardiac patients in KP


September 19, 2019

PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in last six years of its rule in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa failed to operationalise the Peshawar Institute of Cardiology (PIC) and has also been unable to resume services at the Cardiac Surgery Department in Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) that was closed on charges of high mortality rate.

At the moment, there is no cardiac surgery facility in the public sector hospitals in KP. The only one operating in the Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) is being run by a philanthropic organisation, Cardiac Care Foundation, in collaboration with MTI-HMC.

The unit is named as “Muhammad Cardiac Surgery Services, Cardiac Surgery Unit Department of Cardiology, MTI-HMC, Dr Aasim is the in charge or head of department of this unit.

Recently, two trainees from Armed Forces of Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) were recommended to Dr Aasim through proper merit and selection to be taken as trainee registrars with him for further grooming as assistant surgeons and then future consultants.

Prof Dr Zahid Aslam Awan, head of Cardiology Department of HMC, arranged funds from the platform of their welfare organisation, Cardiac Care Foundation, for purchasing equipment and establishing operation theatre and cardiac surgery department in HMC.

The HMC administration also provided them with some budget and other services.

It was Prof Zahid Aslam Awan who convinced a qualified cardiac surgeon Dr Mohammad Aasim to quit his highly paid job in an international hospital in Kabul to join the cardiac unit.

Dr Aasim singlehandedly started cardiac procedures on December 1st, 2017 (12 Rabiul Awwal) with a small team and operated the first open-heart surgery (coronary artery bypass grafting) on December 6, 2017. It was the first-ever heart surgery in the HMC.

By May 20, 2019, Dr Aasim had done 507 cardiac surgeries, which is stated to be a record for a single cardiac surgeon anywhere in the world.

Dr Aasim and his unit is now the only option for cardiac patients in KP.

The number of cardiac patients is growing rapidly. Today, the waiting list in the cardiac surgery unit in HMC has reached June 2021. The only public sector cardiac surgery unit in LRH has been closed for many months and most of the patients needing surgeries are referred to Dr Aasim and his unit.

Officials in the HMC told The News that it has become hard for Dr Aasim and his team to handle so many patients.

“Dr Aasim is, in fact, endangering professional survival of his team by limiting his private IBP surgeries for the sake of accommodating poor patients. Still, the unit doesn’t have the capacity to take the burden of patients from all over KP,” an official of HMC explained.

He said KP desperately needed major cardiac hospitals like PIC and more public sector units with properly trained and qualified cardiac surgeons.

According to the official, every day Dr Aasim receives dozens of patients requiring heart surgery.

The official said Dr Aasim hardly conducts 8 to 11 surgeries a week as “cardiac surgery is the most sensitive procedure and he doesn’t want patients to develop complications”.

Sahibzada Mohammad Saeed, chairman, BoG, HMC, and Prof Shehzad Akbar, Medical Director HMC, also played a key role along with Prof Zahid Aslam Awan in establishing this state-of-the-art cardiac centre.

However, HMC now needs more funds not only to take over the cardiac centre and ensure uninterrupted supply of the disposables but expand its services and hire additional qualified consultants. When reached by phone, Sahibzada Saeed told The News that they had asked the government for funds so that they can take over the cardiac centre from the philanthropic organisation to provide free services to poor patients.

“At the moment we have the best cardiac surgeon but he is alone and overburdened. We need to hire additional consultants and expand our services to facilitate more patients,” said Sahibzada Saeed.

It seems the PTI government has forgotten PIC and the needs of the cardiac patients as the last meeting called by Chief Minister Mahmood Khan about its status was held a while ago.

At the meeting, he had promised to keep himself updated about major health projects, including PIC but to no avail.

PIC has been the victim of neglect by successive governments. The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) government during the last months of its rule had announced the establishment of the PIC. Then came the Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) coalition government that provided some funds but could not complete the project.

When the PTI took over in 2013 in KP, it announced health and education as its two top priorities. The PTI initially provided some funds to complete the civil work but these were insufficient. This delayed its completion until 2018.

Now the building is ready, but the government doesn’t have funds for procuring equipment.

A Karachi-based cardiologist Dr Abdul Bari has been chosen as chairman, BoG for the PIC. Two board members told The News that he is too busy to spare time for the PIC.

“No doubt Dr Bari is a good person and fundraiser but he is based in Karachi and has shown no interest in PIC so far. Also, it is a conflict of interest as he is always interested in establishing his private hospital in Peshawar,” one board member told The News. Efforts were made to seek Dr Abdul Bari’s comments about the fate of PIC but he didn’t answer the phone calls. However, KP Finance Minister Taimoor Khan Jhagra told The News that the government would soon release funds for the PIC and it would be operational within six months. “We had increased health budget by 38 percent and going to release more than Rs2 billion for two major health projects including PIC. We have decided to fulfil all financial requirements of PIC,” Taimoor Jhagra said.