“Since its inauguration in December 1994, over 1600 cancer patients from Afghanistan have been treated with an estimated cost of 1.5 billion rupees in the hospital. Soon Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center would be inaugurated in Peshawar. Philanthropists and well-off people from Afghanistan must support SKMCH&RC,” says Dr. Sultan
AT-KABUL: An Afghan media delegation visited Pakistan early this month. The theme of the visit was “health and women empowerment”. Therefore, members of the delegation visited key health institutions and hospitals. They also met with a number of key government officials besides renowned doctors and journalists. The visit to Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center (SKMCH&RC), turned out to be the most informative where the Afghan journalists found that the hospital has treated more than 1,600 patients from across Afghanistan—a war-ridden country whose health infrastructure was seriously damaged during 90s. The Chief Executive of the SKMCH&RC, Dr. Faisal Sultan, briefed the media delegates about how the hospital delivers healthcare services to patients with cancers and how it generates funds. Dr. Sultan said that SKMCH&RC has treated over 1600 Afghan patients with cancers with an estimated cost of 1.5 billion (rupees) since the establishment of the hospital in 1994. He said the hospital administration intends to set up a cancer hospital in Kabul with the help of the Afghan government and Afghan philanthropic organizations as patients from Afghanistan usually travel long-distance to get treatment in Lahore.
“The number of Afghan patients with cancers exceeds 1600 as most of the patients usually they fill in the hospital forms with addresses from Peshawar and other parts of Pakistan, but we know they are from Afghanistan. We treat all the patients alike, exclusively on humanitarian basis irrespective of political situation on the ground and the bilateral relations of the two neighboring states,” he said.
“We are going to inaugurate our branch in Peshawar, Hayatabad on 29th December as SKMCH&RC was inaugurated on 29th December in 1994,” Dr. Sultan said.
Talking to Afghanistan Times, he said that 70 percent of the patients are treated exclusively free of cost. “The system is very much transparent,” he said.
“This year we have a budget of 7 billion (rupees). Half of the budget is generated through our hospital services marketing such as all the patients are not having cancer diseases rather they come for pathology tests and OPDs as well. They pay for the health services. And the money that come from OPDs services go to the fund. The remaining 50 percent are being generated through charities, fund raisings, zakat, and hides collection,” he said.
The delegation members also visited some of the Afghan patients who were under medical treatment in the hospital.
An elderly man, Jamalzada, from Baghlan province along with his nephew Fawad, a seven year old patient with blood cancer, thanked to the doctors of the hospital for the free of cost treatment. He said that Fawad’s father was killed in the war. The hospital doesn’t charge any fee and money, but whenever he comes to Lahore from Baghlan, he usually sells his valuables at home to cover the travel expenses. “It is the 17th time that I am visiting this hospital. My nephew has been treated successfully. And I hope next time I will take him to the SKMCH in Peshawar as I have heard that soon it is going to be inaugurated there. My nephew needs just three to four visits more,” he said.
Dr. Sultan reiterated that Shaukat Khanum is providing treatment to patients with cancers according to its mission to alleviate the suffering of patients through the application of modern methods of curative and palliative therapy irrespective of their ability to pay.
Abdul Samad Siraj, the head of the delegation from Afghanistan, applauded the impartial policy of the hospital to provide latest medical treatment to all the people, including Afghans. “We have held fund-raising events across the EU and the US, but no charity and fund raising events have been held in Afghanistan, so far. There are many affluent Afghan businessmen and they can help us in fund raising events in Afghanistan. Therefore, they must come to the fore and help the cancer-patients. This is a greatest ever service to humanity,” Dr. Sultan said. “As cancer has been on the spread in the region, there is also need for a hospital like Shaukat Khanum Hospital in Afghanistan,” the doctor said.
He added that they will definitely play their role in persuading the government and the people of Afghanistan to help establishing such cancer care facility in their country. Founded by Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned politician and the chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), this hospital is Pakistan’s largest cancer hospital.
The hospital has recorded nearly 182,000 visits of cancer patients in the outpatient department.
It is named after the mother of Imran Khan, who died after battling cancer.
Its second hospital is under construction in Peshawar, spread over six acres. The hospital is expected to be operational by the end of 2015. The hospital to be completed at the cost of Rs3 billion and would have 1700 doctors, technicians and other staff. Once the SKMCH is operational in Peshawar, the cancer patients from Afghanistan will be saved from the throes of longest journey to Lahore. This is pertinent to mention that the media exchange program was organized by Equal Access Afghanistan and Equal Access Pakistan.