What lies beneath: Houston expert to lead team for 80 free plastic surgeries at DUHS

Most of the cases are for cleft lip, cleft palate and burns.

Express November 22, 2011

KARACHI: Eighty patients have been selected for free surgeries which will be conducted at the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) campus in Ojha.

The initiative, taken with the support of the ‘The House of Charity’ and the Children’s Fund International, was inaugurated by the provincial minister for health, Dr Sagheer Ahmed, at DUHS on Tuesday.

Speaking about the workshop and camp scheduled to last for the next few days, DUHS Vice Chancellor Prof. Masood Hameed Khan said most patients with birth defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate had been selected.

The selection and pre-operative research on all patients was conducted and completed last month. The first round of surgeries is scheduled to take place at DUHS on Wednesday at 8:30am. Plastic surgeon Joseph Agris from Houston, US will be leading the team.

“I have been coming to Pakistan for the last six years and at least two to three times a year,” Agris said. “But I find the country lacking a true burns centre.” Most patients in Karachi are referred to the Civil hospital’s burns ward, considered the better option across the city. Patients from rural Sindh have no such choices and usually have to make an excruciating journey to Karachi to get treatment.

During one of his trips almost two years ago, Agris found two young girls who had been left in a trash can in rural Balochistan. Both of them were severely burnt. After nearly two years of work to prepare their passports and organise their visas, Agris along with the founder and executive director of The House of Charity, Hashmat Effendi, will be taking the girls to the US on their return for treatment.

“Most patients who visit our Burns Centre [at Civil Hospital, Karachi] are females who have been victimised or have experienced domestic violence,” said health minister, Dr Sagheer Ahmed.

With a grave lack of resources and an increasing dependency on large urban centres to cater to burn patients, Ahmed said it was time districts were empowered to share the load. “Karachi’s resources are now being exhausted. We need to look at other cities of Sindh and Pakistan.”

He recommended setting up at least four large scale burns centres in the country and then smaller centres in each district to cater to local needs. “We need to move the focus from Karachi now to other areas such as Jacobabad, Kashmore among others.”

The DUHS VC also brought up how easy it is for anyone to buy acid. Far too many women find themselves at the burns centre at CHK after men have attacked them with the corrosive substance. Prof. Masood Hameed Khan asked the health minister, Dr Sagheer, to see if any parliamentary intervention were possible. For his part, Dr Sagheer assured that he would take up the recommendation at the legislative level and pursue a bill that would restrict open access to acid.

The minister added that courts needed to give the maximum punishment for this kind of crime.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2011.


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