KARACHI: Elderly patients being treated at the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) Leprosy Hospital in Manghopir said that until it was looked after by the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre (MALC), under the supervision of Dr Ruth Pfau, the standard of services was excellent.
The patients would get a healthy breakfast - bread, eggs, butter and one litre of milk - every day, as well as lunch and dinner. However, the conditions have not been the same since the KMC took over the lone specialised treatment facility for skin diseases and it worsened with each passing year.
The hospital management says that they suffer from a shortage of funds. "They've only given us this bed and provide a dressing facility," a patient who has been living in the hospital for the past 20 years told The Express Tribune.
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"We are thankful that the welfare organisations provide us food twice a day," another patient said, showering praises on the Alamagir Welfare Trust and Saylani Welfare Trust.
An employee at the facility, Muhammad Yaseen, said that the private contractor they hired stopped providing food to the patients four years ago as the KMC failed to clear their dues. He said Saylani provides lunch seven days a week and Alamgir provides dinner four days a week.
According to Yaseen, for the remaining days they appeal to locals for food. "No permanent arrangements for breakfast have been made, leaving the patients to rely on only two meals a day," he said.
An official of the hospital, requesting anonymity, said a new 50-bed block for the treatment of infectious diseases was set up years ago.
"A hostel for nursing staff was also built but the buildings are gathering dust, as the new block has yet to be made functional by the management," he said, adding that equipment for the laboratory and blood bank have not been used in years.
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The official said that with the construction of a new block, the strength of beds in the hospital had been increased from 200 to 250, but the KMC failed to allocate funds in its budget for the employees of the hospital's infectious diseases department, claiming that the block has not been handed over to them by the engineering department.
Besides providing specialised treatment for leprosy patients, a number of ailments such as hepatitis, tuberculosis, eye and other skin diseases are also diagnosed and treated at the leprosy hospital.
“Leprosy has not ended in Pakistan, instead it has been controlled,” Dr Muhammad Ali Abbasi, KMC’s senior director of medical and health who also worked on the leprosy control programme with Dr Pfau for 26 years, said, arguing that a vaccine for this disease had not been discovered yet.
According to him, that is why patients with leprosy are still coming for treatment. He said the hospital was initially set-up by philanthropists in 1886 and named Heera Nand Leprosy Hospital. In 1960 it was transferred to the KMC. Later, treatment and monitoring was handed over to Dr Pfau in the early 70s till 2009. Medicine and food were also provided by the MALC, he added.
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The doctor, who is retiring soon, is optimistic about the fate of his proposal. “Two months ago the KMC council passed a resolution about transformation of the Manghopir hospital into a research and training institute for infectious diseases.” He said 90% of the work on the building is complete and once everything is finalised staff will be hired.
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