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December 16, 2020

PM to open Peshawar Institute of Cardiology today

December 16, 2020

PESHAWAR: It’s a dream come true for the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as the long-delayed Peshawar Institute of Cardiology (PIC) is ready and Prime Minister Imran Khan will formally open it for patients today.

“PIC is ready and Prime Minister Imran Khan is coming to Peshawar today to inaugurate it,” Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra told The News on Tuesday.

Former chief secretary Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mohammad Azam Khan and his successor Dr Kazim Niaz played a key role in the establishment of PIC by arranging funds and procuring equipment.

Prof Shahkar Ahmad Shah, medical director of the PIC, told reporters a few days back that they had almost completed the hiring process and most of the equipment had arrived and was being installed.

Prof Shahkar, a cardiac surgeon, stated to be the pioneer of cardiac surgery in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as he performed the first cardiac surgery in the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH). He stated that PIC would have 262 total beds, but they planned to start it from 160 beds, including all critical services.

Though the PIC has six operation theatres and six Cath labs, Prof Shahkar and his team decided to launch the services from three operation theatres and three Cath labs. “A number of skilled cardiac surgeons and qualified cardiologists have joined us and we are set to start the cardiac surgeries in PIC in a few days,” Prof Shahkar told The News. He said 70-80 percent cardiac patients used to travel to other places outside KP for their cardiac surgeries due to lack of proper set up in the province, particularly in the public sector hospitals.

After PIC is completed, he said they had a plan to set up similar cardiac centres in Abbottabad, Mardan, Swat, etc. It is a long and painful story that delayed completion of PIC. Incompetence, neglect and wrongful priorities of successive governments in KP caused the delay.

The foundation-stone for the 300-bed cardiac hospital was laid by the then chief minister Muhammad Akram Khan Durrani when the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) was in power. Akram Durrani used to take credit for the hospital but failed to make any progress on the project.

The Awami National Party (ANP)-Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) coalition government and the one led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) also neglected the project. Funds were delayed for the project and some of the money meant for PIC was shifted to the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

In contrast, construction work was launched on the Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology in 2010 and the hospital started functioning in 2012. It is a centre of excellence, providing quality treatment to heart patients.

There was no dedicated centre for heart diseases in KP and Fata. In Punjab, there are four heart hospitals in Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad. The LRH and HMC were only public sector hospitals having cardiac units but were inadequate to cater to the needs of a population of over 30 million in the province. When the cardiac surgery department in LRH was closed two years ago, the entire burden fell on the HMC where Dr Mohammad Aasim has been doing surgeries all alone.

Two projects, the 300-bed Peshawar Institute of Cardiology (PIC) and the 120-bed Burns and Trauma Centre, were initiated in KP but it took more than a decade to get completed due to lack of interest by the successive provincial governments.

The Burns and Trauma Centre was completed in 2018 and that, too, when USAID provided funds for the procurement of equipment. The PTI government arranged funds for completion of the remaining civil works and hiring of staff of KP’s first-ever state-of-the-art burns and trauma centre, where excellent facilities are offered to patients free-of- cost.

Besides others, former chief secretary Mohammad Azam Khan and Prof Mohammad Tahir Khan played a key role in arranging funds and equipment for the burns centre. Besides the lack of funds, PIC was delayed due to ploys by vested interests. The private hospitals in Peshawar also opposed PIC as they feared it would affect their business.

Another factor behind its delay was litigations. Certain people pushed Dr Hussain Ahmad Haroon, the self-proclaimed president of Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), to challenge the issue when PIC was declared as part of the Board of Governors (BoG) of the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) headed by Dr Nausherwan Burki.

Dr Burki, in fact, wanted to use his influence and arrange funds for PIC and another long-delayed project in LRH, the medical and allied services building. He took personal interest and completed the seven-storey state-of-the-art building called the new LRH. It added a good look to the historic LRH. The BoG in 2018 advertised certain positions for PIC and shortlisted doctors, mostly serving in the best cardiac centres overseas when the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced general election in July 2018 and banned recruitment by the federal and provincial governments to ensure transparency in the polls.

The ECP decision was irrelevant as the date for the election was not fixed at that time. Some of the 25 shortlisted candidates had reached Peshawar for the interview from overseas and others were lined up in the US, Canada and UK.

They were informed only one day before cancellation of the interview. They were so disappointed that they refused to come and join PIC when another BoG in 2020 advertised positions.

Dr Nausherwan Burki had planned to bring Pakistani doctors trained on modern equipment in the best cardiac centres in the developed world. PIC has specialised cover for both cardiac and cardio-vascular super specialties and is to serve not only as a service provider but also the hub for training and research. As per directive of the Peshawar High Court (PHC), the government later formed a separate Board of Governors (BoG) for PIC, headed by a noted Karachi-based cardiologist, Dr Abdul Bari Khan, under the Medical Teaching Institutions law.

The BoG then selected Prof Shahkar Ahmad Shah as medical director for PIC. He gave up a lucrative job in a private hospital and joined the PIC to serve the people of his province. During a short span of time, he formed his team and installed equipment to open it for patients.