Pakistan’s healthcare history: a unique chapter

When devotion overtakes every other consideration what one ends up doing is setting an example that inspires others to follow suit with even greater zeal. The story of Sindh Institute of Urology & Transplant (SIUT), very ably and comprehensively narrated by renowned journalist Zubeida Mustafa in her book entitled “The SIUT story”, too is about the admirable devotion and commitment of those who run the SIUT.

What is particularly commendable about the book is its coverage of every aspect of SIUT with relevant details. Besides, the book is a ‘must read’ for all physicians, surgeons and hospital attendants because it gives them important message – humanity must be served without any distinction, and the most deserving are the poverty-stricken; serving them is the route to salvation and Professor Adibul Hassan Rizvi is a living example thereof.

guest-contributorBy A.B. Shahid

June 15, 2013
When devotion overtakes every other consideration what one ends up doing is setting an example that inspires others to follow suit with even greater zeal. The story of Sindh Institute of Urology & Transplant (SIUT), very ably and comprehensively narrated by renowned journalist Zubeida Mustafa in her book entitled “The SIUT story”, too is about the admirable devotion and commitment of those who run the SIUT.

What is particularly commendable about the book is its coverage of every aspect of SIUT with relevant details. Besides, the book is a ‘must read’ for all physicians, surgeons and hospital attendants because it gives them important message – humanity must be served without any distinction, and the most deserving are the poverty-stricken; serving them is the route to salvation and Professor Adibul Hassan Rizvi is a living example thereof.

How in 1972, an eight-bed unit of the Civil Hospital, Karachi was transformed into SIUT – an internationally recognised medical centre – is the story of a remarkable struggle that succeeded because of the commitment of Dr Rizvi and his team, to serving humanity, especially the down-trodden, and at the same time steadily raising the standards of care in many fields besides the delicate area of kidney-related illnesses.

The book highlights in detail the success of SIUT, given a historic background wherein healthcare never got the importance it deserved in a country like Pakistan that has the reputation of having one of the world’s highest rates of population growth. The book begins, and very rightly so, by summarising this sad track record to show how inspite thereof SIUT made the ‘impossible’ possible.

The author sums up the philosophy of SIUT very well when she says “The idea is to be as self-sufficient as much as possible and provide the institution with state-of-the-art technology without any ostentation.” That’s why there are no private wards in the SIUT, nor do its senior doctors have private offices. This profile has been hugely helpful in SIUT benefiting from the world’s top-ranking medical institutions, physicians, and surgeons.

Organ donation is imperative for transplant, which can be exploited as an irreligious act by those who place saving lives – the prime human obligation – at a low priority. SIUT was able to pre-empt such a disastrous move back in 1998 by obtaining legal and religious support for it when the father of a diseased young man set a great tradition by deciding to donate the organs of his son to give the ‘gift of life’ to those who needed them.

This great act and many thereafter, provided the beginning for SIUT’s transplant service in which it made great strides and has now become a world renowned institution. This initiative convinced institutions abroad about the sincerity, commitment and futuristic approach of the team at SIUT in reaching new heights in medicare and making it a truly humane service.

The support SIUT receives from global medical experts has been dealt with extensively by the author giving both the details of the experts from the US to Australia helping SIUT, and their very encouraging assessment of the services the SIUT offers, as well as its achievements in this context. Some of the messages coming from top-notch medical specialists assure you that not everything is wrong with Pakistan’s medical services.

Encouraged up by global support and the commitment of its physicians, surgeons and paramedical staff, SIUT now offers a variety of treatments and therapies including dialysis, endoscopy, oncology, nephrology, ultrasound, haematology, renal failure, lithotripsy, prostrate surgery, organ transplant, and more and has elaborate diagnostic expertise and requisite technologies therefor.

The ability to offer a variety of therapies is rooted in a knowledge sharing base – teachers, laboratories and libraries – building which has been an ongoing task. Besides setting up teaching facilities, a library with over 5,000 books and subscribing to 125 medical journals, a landmark was the setup of Zainul Abideen Institute of Medical Technology. In 2009, HEC too recognised SIUT as a degree awarding education institution.

In spite of all the negatives that Pakistan has been suffering from, SIUT has earned global recognition as a forum for global conferences. In 1994, SIUT organised the first International Symposium on Urology, Nephrology and Transplant. Since then SIUT has been hosting international conferences that are attended and addressed by renowned foreign medical experts, and add to the knowledge-base of SIUT’s team.

Besides medical treatment, SIUT has set up the Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Culture (CBEC) – a forum of physicians and sociologists devoted to designing the core values of the profession. Until CEBC’s setup, in Pakistan the need for institutionalising a forum to define and impose ethical practices in the medical profession was not realised. CEBC now holds regular sessions for physicians as well as for visiting students.

Education programmes and publications of the CBEC forum led to global recognition of this centre, and Dr Farhat Moazam and Dr Aamir Jafery of the CBEC were elected to global forums on biomedical ethics. More importantly, CBEC also helped the WHO Task Force on this subject in upgrading its global guidelines on organ transplantation – no small achievement for a Pakistani institution.

The author has allocated a chapter to the role played by donors, both big and small, without whose help SIUT could not become what it is, given the consistent inadequate funding of the health services by the state. Among institutional donors, the first to begin contributing back in 1980 was the Bank of Credit & Commerce Int’l Foundation (now called the Infaq Foundation), under the leadership of the late Agha Hassan Abedi.

Besides many reputed contributors special reference is made to Suleman Dawood, the Haroon family, the Cowasjee Foundation, and to Dewan Farooq who financed the setting up of Zainul Abideen Institute of Medical Technology. Then there are thousands of donors in Pakistan and abroad who regularly donate sums to the SIUT besides helping in acquisition of medical equipment.

This wide scale of public support is the manifestation of the peoples’ confidence in the way SIUT is run by Dr Rizvi and his team. To institutionalise the recording, accounting and appropriate use of donor funds, back in 1986, SIUT had established the Society for the Welfare of Patients of Urology and Transplant, which is overseen by an independent Board of Governors.

The book concludes with comprehensive indices about virtually every aspect of SIUT services, expert opinions thereon, SIUT’s connections and affiliations and, very rightly, also includes a roll of honour listing the many national and international awards bestowed upon Dr Rizvi and his team of able physicians, surgeons and paramedical staff who performed with unmatched commitment and devotion to serve humanity.

Source: Business Reorder