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September 18, 2020

Plastic surgeon Prof Mohammad Tahir Khan retires after lively career


September 18, 2020

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s leading plastic surgeon Prof Dr Mohammad Tahir Khan retired after an eventful career and getting the province Pakistan’s first state-of-the-art 120-bed Burns and Trauma Centre.

Since its inception, it had provided specialist services to more than 8,000 burn patients in the past one-and-a-half-years, 50,000 of plastic surgery and trauma. All services are offered free of cost to the patients in the burn centre and the credit goes to him.

Prof Tahir Khan’s untiring efforts for the burn patients in KP deserve to be appreciated as during his long career, he worked hard and not only established a well-equipped Burns and Trauma Centre in Peshawar, but also arranged huge financial resources and set up burns centres in Chitral, Timergara and Bannu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and two similar facilities in Afghanistan. Two major health-related projects - the Peshawar Institute of Cardiology (PIC) and the Burns and Trauma Centre - were launched years ago in KP but delayed for a long time due to lack of ownership and funds. Two important healthcare projects, Burn and Trauma Centre and the Peshawar Institute of Cardiology (PIC), had a similar story as construction work on both projects started several years ago but wasn’t completed due to lack of funds that the federal government was supposed to provide.

Prof Tahir didn’t lose heart and not only owned the Burns and Trauma Centre but used his personal connections in the government and arranged $15 million to the project.

It was because of his nonstop efforts that the Burns and Trauma Centre became a reality, providing quality services to thousands of burn victims, while the Peshawar Institute of Cardiology (PIC) is yet to be operational.

It was announced by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) government during last year of their government but failed to provide any funds for this huge projects.

Then came the ANP-PPP coalition government but it also didn’t provide funds that could have completed the building, though a major portion of the building was raised during the ANP government.

The previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led coalition government in the first three years completely ignored this important project, though health and education were stated to be their top priorities. The federal government and Workers Welfare Fund (WWF) were initially supposed to provide funds for the project.

The WWF had initially provided Rs40 million but the later stopped funding to the project.

The KP government at that time had reportedly refused to provide funds due to lack of resources for the project.

It prompted Prof Tahir Khan to approach the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through senior government functionaries.

They informed USAID officials about the plight of the burn victims in KP and managed to get $15 million from USAID in 2017 for procurement of equipment and the remaining civil work. All the burn patients, most of them victims of bomb explosions, suicide attacks and drone strikes, carried by the CIA-operated unmanned aircraft, used to be taken to the burn centre in Kharian in Punjab.

The treatment cost was beyond the approach of most of the patients. The previous PTI government in KP later realised the importance of this rare health facility in the province and agreed to offer Rs300 million for the remaining civil work of the project and sanctioned 347 positions of different categories.

Since Prof Tahir Khan had knocked at each and every door of seeking their assistance to the project, he would always recall those who helped him in arranging funds for the burn centre. Some names he would mention included Mohammad Azam Khan, the then chief secretary, and the main force behind the success of the project. The then secretary health Abid Majeed and secretary finance Shakeel Qadir and some government officials also contributed to the project.

Now when Prof Tahir has retired from service, people associated with the Burns and Trauma Centre are now worried about the future of the centre, staff training and nonstop supplies to the facility. Since he is president-elect of Pakistan Burns Association for 2021-2023, his fellow colleagues wanted him to utilise his connections and continue bringing funds for the centre. Besides developing plastic surgery services, Prof Tahir Khan has trained dozens of young doctors, most of them now providing specialist services to patients. Before his retirement, 31 doctors completed their post-graduate training in plastic surgery under Prof Tahir’s supervision.

Most of them got jobs as Prof Tahir had already created sanctioned positions in tertiary care hospitals in Swat, Swabi, Nowshera, Mardan, Dera Ismail Khan and Bannu.

The plastic unit produced the largest number of postgraduate trainees and had published 200 research papers till date. It was in 2016 when he established telemedicine with technical support from German government for providing specialist services to burn patients in Chitral, Dera Ismail Khan and Afghanistan.

Prof Tahir was recently pushing the government to recruit plastic surgeons on sanctioned posts in Bannu, Chitral, Nowshera, Swabi, Timergara, Kohat, Abbottabad and Mansehra for burns centres that would lessen the burden on burns and plastic surgery centre, Hayatabad and give immediately needed treatment to the burn patients at their doorsteps. In the 120-bed centre, 50 beds are reserved for burns patients and the remaining for patients requiring plastic surgery and reconstructive services.

The centre is having eight-bed ICU, 12 beds each for male and female acute burn patients along with 12 beds reserved for children. There are eight operation theatres, including two each for trauma and burns (major and minor) and four for elective cases.