Healthcare at crossroads: One facility, too many patients

The only Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit struggles to cater to K-P, tribal areas and Afghan patients.

Manzoor Ali August 03, 2011
Healthcare at crossroads: One facility, too many patients


The only Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit catering to the people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), the tribal areas and Afghanistan is facing a categorical shortage of doctors, beds and other facilities, officials have revealed.

The burn centre at the Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) is the only facility of its kind in the entire province to treat burn-related injuries and plastic surgery. Unfortunately, patients in this unit, who need significant privacy, are at the mercy of the visitors as the only entrance to the unit passes through an only-male ward.

Burn unit Registrar Dr Syed Asif Shah told The Express Tribune that the facility currently possesses only 12 beds and two qualified doctors to treat burn cases of the entire province including the tribal areas.

Dr Shah revealed that operations on the burn patients were performed only once a week, while the rest of the week, the operation theatres remained idle.

“This facility also lacks an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and those patients requiring an ICU are referred to other cities like Wah,” he said.

Dr Shah said that annually the facility received 400 to 600 patients and half of them required operations while the other half needed intensive care.

Burn patients, in general, take at least two weeks to recover, while in serious cases the treatments could span over a period of two to three years - requirements the facility is often unable to cater to.

The registrar of the burn unit said that legally there should be two doctors for a single bed and keeping this standard in mind, the facility needed 24 doctors and same number of paramedics for better treatment of patients.

Due to it being the only facility in the province and tribal areas, entry to its ward is also difficult. According to Dr Shah, patients have had to wait up to six months for treatment which had resulted in high mortality and deformity rates.

Dr Shah said that the ongoing insurgency in the region had also caused an increase in the number of cases as many of the bomb blast victims either received burn injuries or needed plastic surgery.

“Cost of treatment is also expensive and it costs Rs3,000 to Rs10,000 per patient per day.”

Dr Shah said that he had asked the authorities to appoint more doctors, support staff, beds and two operation theatres to cope up with the increasing load of patients but a response was not forthcoming.

He said that work for a 100-bed Burn and Trauma Centre was still in progress and it would take at least three years to complete, while the extension work of the KTH facility was still under process.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2011.


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