Posted @ LahorePost Blog
Seems like writing for and mainly against Imran Khan is in vogue in Pak blogging world. Here is my contribution!
40 yr old Salma, a local villager, was diagnosed with cancer of the uterus. She received treatment from SKMT H and had full recovery. As I met her, I explained to her that cancer is not common cold and that it can recur, so religious follow-up is obligatory. On her follow-up visit at Shaukat Khanum, she was asserted clear.
Weeks later, I found out that she was having similar symptoms again. This time her family chose to take her to the nearby quack who they told me was “qualified” in treating such illnesses and had an excellent medical record. Jolted by the statement, I explained to them the consequences of not seeking professional help, as it could be recurrence of her cancer. Since they were tenants from my local village, I became persuasive and even authoritative. To my utter disappointment the family (otherwise very caring & concerned but ultimately illiterate) rejected and got her treated first by the specialist quack and later by a peer baba, who I found out charged more than what a doc would have. 6 months later, she died.
It made me realize that she must have been tagged “cured” in SKMTH registers but here she was down in the grave and then I wondered how many more poor “cured” patients in SKMTH record actually met the same destiny. I don’t have any post-hospital discharge statistics, but I suppose almost all the impoverished who are “cured” per hospital record, IF get recurrence, end up having fate similar to Salma.
Cancer after cure needs from minimum 2 yrs up to lifelong follow-up. The gullible poor in Pak cannot afford such lucrative follow-ups. Even if the hospital charges nothing, they have their own social and financial issues (travelling, food and lodging cost/issues etc) and they are too naïve to handle such jagged situations.
I believe institutes of excellence like SKMTH are serving only the affluent, some meagre and of course doctors. Unless, an appropriate infrastructure is built in terms of health and education, I am afraid erecting centers of excellence in the name of poor is yielding little, they cannot be utilized to their optimum capability, and no matter what they do they can never justly serve 70% of our indigent population.
One million spent on Salma,s treatment went down the drain by the end of the day. Obviously, SKMTH is not at all at fault. I blame a nonexistent public health system and illiteracy for that. Besides, optimum health & education services can never be attained by relying solely on humanitarian organizations without the earnest involvement of the state and hence politicians.
As a matter of fact, Salma’s local GP should have summoned her after her discharge from the hospital. The GP than should have kept a record of her future appointments. In addition, she and her family should have been educated enough or at least have had baseline knowledge and awareness of her disease.
Irrefutably, altruism is a pursuit of the past and must be taken as a temporary way out. Otherwise, it results in callous, unending exploitation of the deprived. Circumstances have gone downhill. Now, I reckon this similar to an act involving attack on civilians from the top and later on tendering aid from the ground.
Moreover, the state has turned a blind eye over decades and has shed most of her health responsibility by deviously assigning the task to philanthropists and doctors – victims of collateral damage I would say. In fact, the state has manipulated doctors and humanitarians in the name of humanity for her advantage to cover her shortcomings. Doctors in Pak govt teaching hospitals spend 70% of their time & energy in arranging free investigations & medicines for poor patients (when practically they should be receiving medical training).
Evidently, Social work has limited upshots. In chaotic conditions such as we are in, one should consider pragmatic solution. It appears, political solution is the present and the future now. And for that matter, All politicians should turn into philanthropists and all philanthropists should join politics.
Health and education is the responsibility of the state and if they are unable to endow it, they should resign. Unless the state takes hold of her responsibility and demonstrate practical results, not mere slogans and policies, perpetual exploitation of everyone including patients, poor, and philanthropists will carry on.