Giving back to the community: At ZU’s basic health centre, a consultation only costs Rs30

The centre in Sikandarabad serves over 50 patients a day, trains people about health issues.

Patients visit the small, rundown building in Sikandarabad that houses a basic healthcare centre set up by Ziauddin University’s Clifton campus. PHOTO: AYSHA SALEEM/EXPRESS

KARACHI: In Sikandarabad, there is a small house with three rooms, broken floors and dusty tables. Its appearance, however, is deceiving — this is a one-of-a-kind healthcare centre set up by Ziauddin University (ZU), providing consultations to over 50 patients on a daily basis for a mere Rs30 each.

In 1996, the family medicine department at the university's Clifton campus established the community health centre in Block 4 of Pakhtun-dominated Sikandarabad, close to the university itself. "Our aim was to provide a basic health facility, spreading awareness about ailments in the close vicinity of the university," Javed Usman, the head of family medicine at ZU, tells The Express Tribune.

Four departments of the university — pharmacy, nursing, dentistry and medicine — work directly with the centre and students pursuing their degrees are appointed as interns and trainees to practice their skills, particularly in the third year of their studies, explains Usman, who also serves there himself.

"The family health centre trains young men and women about basic health issues," he explains. "After six months of training, we test them and reward them with a certificate so that they can serve as helpers in other clinic or help out their own families. The idea turned out to be a great success and through this platform, we have trained over 200 people from the area to date."

For him, the university merely supports the centre — it is the efforts of the volunteers from the area that have taken it to another level. One such volunteer is community organiser Nasir Khan, who has been affiliated with the centre since 1997 and now looks after it. According to him, the helpers and doctors give check-ups and medical consultations to patients for only Rs30 each. Meanwhile, all the medicines prescribed by the centre are available at the in-house pharmacy at half price.

A panel of seven doctors is also available to help patients with various complaints, ranging from fever to hepatitis and from viruses to diarrhoea and pregnancy. "If the patient needs surgery, we give them a referral form through which they can get a 25 per cent discount from Ziauddin Hospital's Keamari campus," discloses Shehlal Khan, who has been volunteering at the centre for the past 10 years.

The centre's records show an average of 55 patients visiting it every day for consultations. "We maintain daily computerised records, allowing up to make reports and work accordingly," says Nasir.

Pointing to a rack full of green folders, Shehlal adds that every patient is allotted a number and a file. "They register themselves by filling out a basic information form," she explains. "Each family is also registered under a number, which helps the doctors understand the family history better."

According to ZU vice-chancellor Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, the university has plans to extend the programme to other areas but it needs more time. "The government is not doing what they should have done for the betterment of the health and education sectors but everyone can play a part in improving them," he claims. "By providing doctors and equipment, we are doing what we can."

Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2015.


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