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Patients, hospitals suffering due to cross-border tension

Patients, hospitals suffering due to cross-border tension

Mar 20, 2017 - 17:55

PESHAWAR (Pajhwok): Fifty-five year old Syed Ahmed, a heart patient, from Herat province is trapped in the waiting-shed of the Peshawar’s Rehman Medical Institute (RMI) for over a week. He came to Pakistaninfo-icon for his routine check-up at the RMI via the Islamabad airport but on one way ticket thinking that the Torkham border will get open and he would go back to his home via the border.

The Pakistani Mobile SIM card in his cell-phone is inactive and he knows only Dari language thus very few people at the hospital can understand him. He keeps an eye on his plastic bag full of his tablets and checks his mobile time and time in the hope to somehow contact his family. “I am waiting for the border to get open,” he said pointing to his pocket and trying to say that he don’t have enough money to get a room in a hotel in Peshawar thus  he has been sleeping on floor in the waiting-shed using a rented-blanket.

His air-ticket showed that he purchased at 170 US dollar from Kabulinfo-icon to Islamabad and he informed that he would used to reach to RMI at merely 20 US dollar by road.

“I managed to get to the hospital, there are hundreds of patients who can’t come because they don’t have passports and visa or they can’t afford the air-ticket,” Ahmed said refuting the notion that India was a good option for him. “Hind (India) is expensive, away and has language barriers,” he said in his week Pashtu.

Habibullah, a translator hired by the RMI for helping Dari speaking Afghan patients, told that Cancer patients who visit to RMI and other hospitals in Peshawar are waiting for the border to be opened. “I have served these patients before and they are in contact with me. Many have reached to the border and then returned for they were not permitted to cross the gate.”

According to Habibullah, 40 translators were kept by RMI and now only 11 are left because of the decrease in the number of patients to Pakistan.  Habibullah has a Proof of Registration (PoR) card (refugee card issued by Pakistani government) and still does his duty while, his other fellow translators who did not have refugee cards have left the country. He gets Rs1000 for a patient from the hospital administration. “I used to serve 10 patients a day and now I get a patient in 10 days,” Habibullah said.

 The cross-border has decreased the patient flow to Peshawar nearly to zero and the private hospital and clinics in the city and Pakistan capital Islamabad are suffering economically.  

In Peshawar, RMI, Northwest General Hospital, Peshawar Institute of Medical Sciences and private clinics and hospitals at the Dabgari Garden area are suffering economically because majority of their patients were from Afghanistaninfo-icon.

An official of the RMI administration told that around 40,000 patients were coming through Torkham before Ramadaninfo-icon. "Before 2016, this number was double but gradually Indian influence in Afghanistan increased and the number of patients dropped down in 2016. Patients living near the Torkham would come to Pakistan," the official said requesting anonymity.

 "We were receiving at least 20,000 patients a month at RMI. Around 5,000 patients would go to Islamabad Hospital including the Shifa International and others, while, 2,000 patients would travel to Karachi and Lahore," he explained that majority among them would stay in Peshawar and would take treatment at the RMI, Northwest General Hospital, PIMS, Doctor Diagnostic Hospital and hospitals and clinics in Dabgari Garden.

"We had put-up sign boards at the Torkham and we had a facilitation center where we would help the patients in getting doctors' appointments and would also arrange for ambulances for serious patients," he added that the RMI had Dari speaking Afghan staff in our help desk, Public Relations department and at Wards reception.

"We the government announced Visa for Afghanistan people and increased checking at Torkham majority of our Afghan staff quit jobs due to Visa problems. We still have employees who are from Afghanistan including Afghan girls," the official said.

He told that the hospital suffered economically with the cross-border tension and its profit level dropped down dramatically.

"The hospital did not do downsizing in the crisis but it stopped new hiring and didn't make new inductions for around 700-800 staff including doctors, paramedics and other supportive staff who left in this period. Otherwise, RMI would hire replacements for the staff who quit jobs and each month up to 100 staff quit jobs and 100 new replace them in routine."

Sajjad Khan, head of Media at the RMI told that their patients flow dropped down by 40% when the Visas were started for Afghans coming to Pakistan. “We are now recovering after the launch of the Prime Minister healthinfo-icon card and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s Insaf health card schemes,” Sajjad said.    

Senior Manager Administration at the North West General Hospital Dr Muhammad Mukhtiar told that they have noted 35% decline in their patients due to the cross-border tension resulting in strictness on the border.

Similarly, the Medical Superintendent of Peshawar Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) also admitted decline in their business due to the cross border tension.  “We are suffering economically as if we were getting 10 Afghan patients a day we now hardly get an Afghan patient a day,” he said.

On the other hand, the number of patients visiting hospitals in Kabul has increased after the closure of border with Pakistan.

Abdul Basir Azemi, marketing officer of Amiri Hospital in Kabul, told Pajhwok Afghan News the number of patients has increased compared to the last month because the crossing points on the Durand lineinfo-icon remained shut and people referred to hospitals in the country.

He said in the past as many as 350 patients visited the hospital for treatment daily, but during the period when the crossing points were shut around 450 patients used to visit the hospital.

He said men were in large number among the patients referred to the hospital from different provinces of the country.

Azemi said the Angioplasty was conducted here at the cost of 155,000 to 165,000 Afghanis on German and US standards and yet inexpensive compared to quality and price of Pakistan.

He claimed the health service provided by the Amiri Hospital were better than services of hospital in Pakistan and India.

He said the cost of heart surgery was 185,000 Afghanis and they conducted two to three surgeries daily.

Ali Mohammad, 36, from Logar province who conducted successful operation, told Pajhwok Afghan News he did not remember what happened to him but when brought to the hospital the doctor told him that he suffered from heart problem and should go under medical operation.

He said he went to Pakistan four times and but he could not undergone medical operation there.

Mohammad added he would have been happy if even could not recover from the operation and died in the hospital.

As seven days passed from his heart surgery, Mohammad looked satisfied from the hospital and said the cost of medical treatments was far less in Kabul compare to their costs in Pakistan. He said the surgeries performed in Amiri Hospital were impossible in Pakistani hospitals.

“I could not remember anything in my memory, my heart beats were increasing and my ears muffled when sleeping on my right side, but I now understood that one of my heart’s veins transferring blood to my brain was holed and sometimes blocked,” he said.

He said he was feeling very comfortably now and hoped he would walk on his feet in the next few days. “It is a place of pleasure that such serious illnesses are treated inside Afghanistan,” he added.

Mohammad Rassoul, 27, a patient from Panjab district of Bamyan province who also surgically operated in the hospital said that he had hole in his heart from his childhood but he was unaware about it. “I was always feeling pains in my kidneys,”

“All my family members and friends were suggesting me to go to India or Pakistan for my treatment, our economic situation is not good, applying for visa is a problematic process here, the border with Pakistan was also closed,” he said.

He said that he referred to Amiri Hospital when he found on the internet that it had two years experience in heart surgeries.

 “I just feel a little pain around my heart right now but the pain is not annoying as it was in the past,” he said.

Rassoul was satisfied from his heart surgery and said the costs here were much lesser compare to the costs he had to pay for travel, residence and treatment in Pakistan or India.

Faramarz, a resident of Herat province who brought his 18 years old brother to Amiri Hospital for the treatment of a similar heart disease, said that he planned to treat his brother in Pakistan. He said the border with Pakistan was closed but one of his friends gave him the address of Amiri Hospital in Kabul.

“We were disappointed what to do, but fortunately one of my friends suggest me the Amiri Hospital where doctors behaved very softly with us, they assured me my brother would be treated here,” he said.

At the time he was speaking to Pajhwok, Faramarz said that his brother was under surgery in the hospital.


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