Shaukat Khanum: A ray of hope for those determined to beat Cancer and Covid-19

Explore how Shaukat Khanum ensures continuity of care for cancer patients amidst the Covid-19 pandemic


May 15, 2009



Covid-19 pandemic has undeniably caused massive disruption, as well as grave destruction's around the globe. With each passing day, the number of people infected with Covid-19 is aggregating drastically in Pakistan; hence an immense confusion and panic is resulted in terms of the country’s public health strategies. In such devastating times, the fast initial response of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (SKMCH&RC) greatly helped delay the overburdening of an already hampered healthcare system, during the initial phases of the epidemic.

However, what’s even more remarkable is that, even in such challenging times, Shaukat Khanam’s story of hope against Cancer continued adroitly. This was evident in the fact that the continuity of utmost care for cancer patients remained Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre’s primary priority. They implemented a plethora of steps to ensure continuous and seamless provision of essential as well as emergency treatment facilities, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, to cancer patients already inducted into the system. Similarly, Telemedicine Clinics dedicated to cancer patients, at a follow-up stage, were also launched and conducted without any disruption or delays.

The picture shows patients waiting in an open environment, outside the Walk-in Clinic, keeping minimum safe distance between each other, to reduce crowding inside the Clinic The picture shows patients waiting in an open environment, outside the Walk-in Clinic, keeping minimum safe distance between each other, to reduce crowding inside the Clinic

Since global studies have revealed that cancer patients are far more susceptible to Covid-19, at Shaukat Khanum, vistors dropping by at the free walk-in clinics are asked to wait in an open environment; hence ensuring proper ventilation, and reducing the risk of contracting the virus in a closed space. Since all three screening centres of Shaukat Khanam are operational and accepting new patients, this safety measure greatly helps reduce over-crowding inside the walk in clinics, and helps ensure a safe minimum distance between each other.

To avoid unnecessary physical interaction, the doctor examines the patient sitting in a separate room via a video call To avoid unnecessary physical interaction, the doctor examines the patient sitting in a separate room via a video call

Shaukat Khanam provides one on one consultations to all suspected cancer patients free of cost. In case the doctor feels that a physical checkup is obligatory, only then they visit the patient. This saves both, the patients as well as the frontline heroes from being endangered or contracting the virus.

All the reception staff is wearing Personal Protective Equipment according to national guidelines All the reception staff is wearing Personal Protective Equipment according to national guidelines

Shaukat Khanum authorities have mandated strict precautionary measures for everyone working in the hospital. Apart from ensuring a safe social distance from each other, the reception staff additionally follows international guidelines including the use of the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) prior to dealing with the cancer patients.

Dr Aasim Yusuf, the Chief Medical Officer of SKMCH&RC on a round, inquiring about the health of a patient undergoing chemotherapy in the adult section of the Outpatient Chemotherapy Bay. The patient has been receiving treatment at SKMCH&RC for over a year and even during the ongoing pandemic, his treatment has continued without any interruption Dr Aasim Yusuf, the Chief Medical Officer of SKMCH&RC on a round, inquiring about the health of a patient undergoing chemotherapy in the adult section of the Outpatient Chemotherapy Bay. The patient has been receiving treatment at SKMCH&RC for over a year and even during the ongoing pandemic, his treatment has continued without any interruption

Renowned doctors ensure that they keep a check on every patient personally so that everyone receives the finest medical treatment. Everything is planned systematically to avoid any mishaps. Given the fact that chemotherapy is expensive, to avoid wastage of medicine, patient’s availability is confirmed beforehand, for their chemotherapy session. All patients who are scheduled to receive the treatment initially need to report to the chemotherapy reception where they are acknowledged in the Hospital Information System.

In the picture, a young, courageous boy, Muhammad Noor can be seen talking to Dr Aasim Yusuf while getting prepped to receive chemotherapy in the Chemotherapy Bay In the picture, a young, courageous boy, Muhammad Noor can be seen talking to Dr Aasim Yusuf while getting prepped to receive chemotherapy in the Chemotherapy Bay

There is a special Pediatric ward dedicated to the brave children fighting cancer. When a young fighter is scheduled to receive chemotherapy, they are required to be seated in the waiting area, again maintaining the necessary minimum social distance keeping in mind the health and safety of every little fighter. The Pediatric ward is painted with cartoons and picturesque hues to especially create a warm, welcoming and child friendly environment.

While talking about the challenges a father had to face during his son’s treatment, he told Dr Aasim Yusuf that on the hospital’s front, he is quite grateful and satisfied as Shaukat Khanum ascertained that nothing affects his child’s treatment. However, the parent did face problems while commuting to the hospital due to the transport restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown situation While talking about the challenges a father had to face during his son’s treatment, he told Dr Aasim Yusuf that on the hospital’s front, he is quite grateful and satisfied as Shaukat Khanum ascertained that nothing affects his child’s treatment. However, the parent did face problems while commuting to the hospital due to the transport restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown situation

In order to further safeguard the safety of every patient, the hospital corroborates that all its staff is screened prior to their shift and all the patients are also screened for Covid-19 before undergoing surgery. Whether you are a patient or a frontline superhero working inside the hospital premises, it is unequivocally essential to wear a mask, maintain a safe physical distance and sanitise hands at all times, because at the end of the day, given the vulnerability of cancer patients, it is SKMCH’s first priority to protect them at all costs.

Dr Amir Ali Syed, a senior surgeon at SKMCH&RC, at the Holding Bay where patients are kept for pre-operative care Dr Amir Ali Syed, a senior surgeon at SKMCH&RC, at the Holding Bay, where patients are kept for pre-operative care

Once the patient is out of surgery, they are kept in the Post Anaesthesia Care Unit of SKMCH&RC. Usually such patients, especially the ones who undergo major surgery, require a plethora of days, and in some cases, weeks, to recover. Over the course of time, they require extra care because cancer patients are at a higher risk of contracting the Covid-19 during their recovery period. Hence, additional cleaning and disinfection measures are performed in the operating rooms, waiting and common areas.

Dr Amir Ali Syed showing the Post Anesthesia Care Unit of SKMCH&RC where the patients who are in the process of recovering, are shifted after undergoing surgeries Dr Amir Ali Syed showing the Post Anaesthesia Care Unit of SKMCH&RC where the patients who are in the process of recovering, are shifted after undergoing surgeries

Radiation therapy is the third most common treatment mode of cancer, recommended by experts, after chemotherapy and surgery. This facility is yet another groundbreaking step towards providing the best, and most advanced radiation technique to the patients, and this cutting edge technology was seamlessly accessible at SKMCH&RC even amidst the pandemic crisis.

A patient is receiving radiation as part of his treatment through a state-of-the-art linear accelerator at SKMCH&RC A patient recives radiation as part of his treatment through the state-of-the-art linear accelerator at SKMCH&RC

Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre is a national treasure that has not only saved precious lives since its inception, but has also given hope to millions of people who are struggling with cancer or have loved ones that suffer from it. Their systematic steps to battle Covid-19 along with cancer are impeccable and the fact that a Pakistani institution is this creditable, surely makes us proud.

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