First Hospice in Pakistan

From Salim Mirza. Posted by Ann on his behalf.

I recently had the acquaintance of Mr. Riaz Ahmad Barni – a potential supporter of TMF. A retired UN communication & public relations official, Mr. Barni (65+ with prostate cancer) is self-motivated and dynamic – always ready to volunteer his services for the cause of humanity. Delighted to learn about TMF, Mr. Barni introduced me to his friend Dr. Saira S. Khan, an oncologist who in 1991 established the first hospice in Pakistan. Now in 2009, it still remains the only hospice in Pakistan offering free services to terminally ill cancer patients. Named Rahat Kada (= the place for comfort & solace), this hospice was established in PECH Society, Karachi with extensive nursing facility. This was one of the projects of the Medical Aid Foundation (Cancer Division) founded by the philanthropist Dr. Saira S. Khan with the help of her supportive friends & donors. The hospice was later moved to another location in Karachi (Mohammad Ali Housing Society) and the beds were increased to 25.

Mr. Barni had known Dr. Saira due to their common interest of music which later led to their association. Both being music students have also been working together for promoting and saving classical music heritage of Pakistan which is fast dying due to indifference of public & private institutions. Dr. Saira Khan has also been providing free medical treatment to those musicians who cannot afford the high cost of medical expenses. She also uses her contacts with legendary music practitioners to hold concerts for fund-raising for her cancer projects. Separately I’m uploading scanned copies of the English version of two brochures of Dr. Saira Khan’s Medical Aid Foundation (MAF).

Last week, Mr. Barni set an appointment with Dr. Khan & we both visited her hospice. There were some 15 patients admitted at that time. Most of them were in an advanced stage of cancer and were under pain management. However, in a kind and helping environment, all of them were in good spirits. There is a doctor round the clock along with paramedical staff. Dr. Saira always rushes from her remote home if there is an emergency at any time. All services provided to the patients were free of charge regardless of their financial status.

Dr. Saira Khan has been simultaneously running a clinic in another area of the city, namely Neelam Colony. This again was Pakistan’s first Early Detection & Mammorgraphy Centre for Cancer established in 1989. At this clinic, free diagnostic services are provided for early screening of cancer. In the illiterate population in Pakistan, there is little awareness about breast cancer in women. The residents of this slum area belong to low-income group and the bread-earners mostly do unskilled or skilled labor work. Since such people cannot afford the luxury of diagnostic testing, the establishment of the clinic providing free services has been a great help. The occurrence of breast cancer is significant in such communities whose members are not even aware of what cancer is & how it can be prevented or cured.

The idea of visiting this hospice was to explore possibilities of cooperation to our mutual benefit. Accordingly, I briefed Dr. Saira Khan about TMF and its role in Pakistan. She showed keen interest in TMF mission & expressed her desire for cooperation with TMF.

I would invite the readers to visit MAF website (http://www.maf.com.pk/). [Please add +92-21 (country code / city code for Karachi) before the phone numbers.] I would welcome any questions the readers might have about Dr. Saira S. Khan & her Medical Aid Foundation and am ready to coordinate. Even before an understanding for cooperation is reached between TMF and MAF, Dr. Khan has expressed her willingness to admit any patient that TMF refers to her hospice. To reciprocate, I personally would be ready to offer voluntary services for any patient she refers for consideration to an applicable TMF program in Pakistan.

Readers will be glad to know that AMF is now working to build a much larger facility in Korangi, a large township of Karachi comprising low-income group people. On 20th March 2008, the foundation stone of a 100-bed cancer hospice was laid. Its complex also has an old people’s home – a concept slowly gaining acceptance in Pakistan.

Salim Mirza
Maxstation, Pakistan
Tel: (092)-021-499-3283
Cell: (092)-0300-358-8713

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