President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi on Friday bemoaned the fact that in a country like Pakistan that had been facing an extreme shortage of trained human resource in the field of health, over 80 per cent of the female doctors did not join the profession after completing their medical education. He urged society to help those female doctors utilise their education to help the suffering humanity in the country. He was speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the fifth biennial conference of the Indus Health Network (IHN), titled ‘ICON 2020’, held at a local hotel.
“After the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s ruling that admissions to medical colleges should be given purely on merit, 70-80 per cent seats in the medical colleges are now filled by the female students. Unfortunately, 80 per cent of these females do not join the medical profession after completing medical education,” he said.
These female doctors, the president maintained, were not to be blamed for this as society as a whole was responsible for their not joining the profession as it discouraged them from practising medicine.
He urged everyone in society to let these female doctors, who are thousands in numbers, resume the medical profession and work at least on a part-time basis so that gaps in the health service delivery in Pakistan could be filled to some extent.
Identifying several challenges in the healthcare sector in Pakistan, Dr Alvi said by promoting preventive health and awareness about prevention of diseases, at least 50 per cent of the disease burden could be reduced. He added that in countries like Pakistan with meagre resources to spend on health, there was no other way to reduce the disease burden except promoting preventive health.
“As a dentist, I know the importance of oral hygiene and there are around 32 Ahadith regarding oral hygiene and use of Miswak. Similarly, everybody knows about the importance of regular hand-washing in the prevention of diseases,” he said, urging the religious scholars to highlight the importance of maintaining hygiene, hand-washing and other preventive measures in their sermons.
He also spoke about the resurgence of polio, growing incidence of viral hepatitis, tuberculosis and alarmingly high incidence of mental disorders, especially depression, in society. He added that without adopting preventive measures, Pakistan could not get rid of these diseases and provide quality healthcare facilities and services to the millions of patients.
“As far as depression is concerned, I have spoken to Special Assistant to Prime Minister Dr Zafar Mirza, and we are planning to establish a helpline within next few months to provide assistance to those who are facing mental health issues. In this regard, the role of teachers is very important as they can see the signs and symptoms of mental distress among their students and can help them and their families,” Dr Alvi said. He deplored the fact that there existed no registry of mental health patients in the country, due to which no reliable data of people suffering from mental health illnesses was available.
He maintained that like Egypt, Pakistan could also reduce the incidence of viral hepatitis and in this regard, there was a need to screen the entire population for the blood-borne disease.
“I have told the health authorities that at least every person should be screened for hepatitis who comes for any blood test at a diagnostic centre to [collect] the data and help those who test positive for the lethal viral disease.”
Announcing that he was going to award a presidential award posthumously to the thalassaemic child who despite the deaths of his three brothers and father due to the dreaded disease, continued his struggle to live a normal life and help others. “This young boy died within 15 days of his pledge that he would fight his disease, which impressed me and others,” he said.
The president also lauded the generosity of the people of Pakistan, especially the residents of Karachi, saying that they gave more charity than the people of other countries, and due to their generosity, millions of people were getting high-quality healthcare facilities, food, education and shelter.
Earlier, in his welcome speech, Chief Executive Officer of the IHN Dr Abdul Bari Khan said that in order to meet the requirement of trained human resource in the area of medicine, they were going to establish the Indus Medical University, which would start functioning by the fall of 2020 and produce 2,500 trained healthcare professionals within the next five years.
He urged the government of Pakistan through President Alvi to support the IHN in meeting the healthcare requirements of the people, saying that the network had been collaborating with the public sector health care under public-private partnerships and last year, it provided healthcare services to over three million patients through its 12 hospitals and other facilities.
Paediatric oncologist and IHN Executive Director Dr Muhammad Shamvil Ashraf, ICON 2020 Chairman Dr Fariduddin and World Health Organisation Director for the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases Dr Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela also addressed the conference.