Dr Haseebullah Ammad, principal of the College of Rehabilitation Sciences, spoke exclusively to TNS on the challenges faced by differently-
Dr Haseebullah Ammad, principal of the College of Rehabilitation Sciences, spoke exclusively to TNS on the challenges faced by differently-abled individuals in need of rehabilitation and the role of organisations supporting their recovery. Excerpts:
The News on Sunday (TNS): What has the Pakistan Society for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled achieved since its establishment? What has been your experience with the organisation like?
Dr Haseebullah Ammad (HA): The PSRD was established in 1957 as a small physiotherapy room at Mayo Hospital. Today, it has grown into a model facility for the rehabilitation of the differently-abled that provides complete rehabilitation under one roof. It involves not only the health care rehabilitation, but also financial, social, psychological and community-based care. Our work involves but is not limited to:
1. Orthopedic surgical OPD, dealing with 200 patients on a daily basis, and a medical OPD also for 200 patients daily.
2. Physical therapy OPD for 120 patients per day.
3. Occupational therapy and speech therapy OPD for 30 patients per day.
4. Orthotics and prosthetics services.
5. School for the physically challenged that has 250 students who are provided free transportation and free meals.
6. Microfinancing to the physically challenged, up to Rs 50,000.
7. Skills centre with monthly wages of up to Rs 50,000.
8. Job placement.
9. Higher education placement.
TNS: Stigmatising attitudes about disability can hinder people with disabilities from participating in society and affect their relationships with health care providers. How do health care providers at the PSRD help reduce the impact of stigma on their patients?
HA: We build confidence using various strategies at school, at our skills centre and in our health care setups. We have psychologists who help people build social confidence. Therapists work on physical abilities, which has a direct impact. The ultimate goal is to enable the physically challenged to become effective partners in society. When people see how useful they become, they get appreciation and acceptance.
Secondly, we have a community-based outreach programme and a public relations department. We reach out to their families, counsel them and bring them to our facility for comprehensive care. The PR Department regularly organises public awareness seminars, social media campaigns and TV shows to spread awareness among general public.
After a complete rehabilitation, most physical functions can be re-acquired. The others can be achieved through modification. Nothing is perfect, but a good functional level is often achievable.
TNS: Given that the PSRD offers a range of medical and surgical rehabilitation services that are affordable for people with physical disabilities, what kind of patients do you receive most often, and of what age group?
HA: The most common age group is children – from newborns to age 12. Of course, we receive patients of all age groups and genders. As we are known to offer services at subsidised rates, most of the patients who reach us are those who cannot afford to get treatment at other private hospitals. Compared to public sector hospitals, we have shorter waiting times for surgery.
TNS: Can you describe the type of care that is provided during rehabilitation? What is the average length of treatment?
HA: We provide surgical, medical and physical rehabilitation to physically challenged individuals. The length of treatment varies a lot. Six to eight weeks may be an average length of treatment for surgical or musculoskeletal patients. For neurological conditions, longer treatments are required. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and orthotics and prosthetics are integral components of the rehabilitation process.
TNS: What type of cure is needed the most? Also, what are the obstacles that need to be overcome and how difficult is the rehabilitation process?
HA: A holistic model of care and cure is needed. The treatment revolves around the patient’s needs, potential and condition. Lack of awareness and inadequate support from the government are our major obstacles. Once a patient comes to us, it is not as difficult as it might seem.
TNS: What can patients expect after going through a rehab?
HA: They can expect maximal recovery. Independence and self-management are what most patients are able to achieve. The sky is the limit.
TNS: In what ways does rehabilitation improve the quality of life?
HA: In all possible ways, one can think of. After a complete rehabilitation, most physical functions can be re-acquired. The others can be achieved through modification. Nothing is perfect, but a good functional level is very much achievable.
TNS: As a non-profit rehabilitation organisation, what efforts has the PSRD made over the years to serve orthopedically handicapped people?
HA: The PSRD has probably been the only organisation in the country that provides complete care under one roof. We help our clients become useful members of the society in all possible ways.
TNS: How do you, as a doctor, guide your patients through the rehabilitation process in order to reach their desired goals and get them back to their lives?
HA: It all starts with counselling and helping them build some realistic goals for themselves. A thorough physical assessment then sets a roadmap to achieving the short-term as well as long-term goals. We make sure that we either provide whatever our patients need or facilitate them. We have signed several agreements with other organisations that help us.
The interviewer is a freelance contributor