Malicious campaign against PKLI will adversely affect liver transplant programme in Pakistan

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 Malicious campaign against PKLI will adversely 
affect liver transplant programme in Pakistan

Dr. Saeed Project Director of Children Hospital and Prof. Shahryar
Sheikh Executive Director PIC also had to face lot of humiliation
for being honest and devoted to their profession

LAHORE: Pakistan has no dearth of talent. Pakistani physicians and surgeons are doing a commendable job all over the world, many of them are heading leading medical institutions, occupying coveted positions, have earned a great name and fame not only for themselves but for their country as well. Some of them overwhelmed with the nationalist spirit did come back to serve their country and share their knowledge and experience with the colleagues but many did not feel comfortable at the working environment, hence some of them decided to go back and a few still decided to face the hardships, challenges and attempted to bring about a positive change in the working environment. For some of them it is not the money which matters but it is the respect, recognition of their talent and comfortable working environment which matters a lot.

A few years ago India, invited a few Pakistani interventional cardiologists as faculty members in their annual Angioplasty workshop. As a mark of respect, some members of the organizing committee came to receive them near the plane. When they disembarked, one of the local organizers remarked that apart from you, do you know this plane also carries a large number of Pakistani patients who are coming for liver transplant here in India. Why you do not establish institutions in your own country and provide these much needed transplant facilities’ to these patients in Pakistan, he asked? One of the Pakistani delegates did not like this though all of them did feel lot of embarrassments at this remark. As one Pakistani interventional cardiologist complained to his other colleagues at this, the other responded that after all let us not get annoyed. It is a fact and we need to establish institutions in Pakistan providing liver transplant facilities locally as it is not possible for everyone to come to India or go overseas for liver transplant.

Now Shifa Hospital at Islamabad has a well established Liver Transplant programme. SIUT at Karachi has performed a few liver transplants successfully with the help of visiting Liver Transplants surgeons from Iran. DUHS at its Ojha Campus is trying to establish a Liver Transplant programme and they too have done a few cases with the help of visiting Indian Liver Transplant surgeons. Government of Punjab headed by former Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif accepted the proposal put forward by eminent Transplant surgeon Prof. Saeed Akhtar and working at Shahbaz Speed helped establish Pakistan Kidney Liver Institute and Research Centre at Lahore in a record time and it is all set to embark on transplant programme. However, some disgruntled politicians and people with vested interests in different sections of the society have started a malicious campaign against PKLI. Whether they are doing it intentionally or inadvertently, it is going to adversely affect the liver transplant programme in Pakistan. The result will be we will remain dependent on facilities in India and other countries for liver transplant which is a pity.

When orthopaedic surgeons start doing brain surgery, the results are not difficult to imagine. Similarly when non-medical people who do not have any information about transplant programme, its intricacies, likely complications, the learning curve for starting any such programme, it can have adverse impact on the whole programme. Little do they realize the damage they are inflicting on progress and development of health services in Pakistan. All those people who help establish such institutions, are trying to run and manage them to make the country self sufficient in health services deserve to be appreciated and commended rather than be defamed and humiliated.

Earlier Prof. Col. Masood Ahmad Cheema the noted Cardiac Surgeon had successfully thwarted an attempt to discourage cardiac surgery at PIC. He came to know that some local agents had invited an Indian Cardiac Surgeon to perform some coronary bypass surgeries at PIC which was already doing some cardiac surgeries except bypass. It would have naturally affected the reputation of the local cardiac surgery team trying its best to find indigenous solution to the problems they were facing and help set us a successful cardiac surgery programme. When Prof. Col. Masood Cheema came to know about this programme, he sent an e mail to the Indian cardiac surgeon to send his detailed CV besides the result of his surgeries performed in India. The Indian Cardiac Surgeon got the message and instead of responding to his e mail, he cancelled the programme.1 Prof. Col. Masood Ahmad Cheema and his team of devoted, dedicated physicians and surgeons, technicians, paramedics including perfusionist worked hard. Prof. Surgeon M. Rehman the chief cardiac surgeon at NICVD helped them a lot in training their staff and eventually cardiac surgery programme started at Punjab Institute of Cardiology.1 It was untiring effort of Prof. Col. Masood Cheema and his colleagues that later on successful cardiac surgery programmes started at Multan, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and a few other centers in the province of Punjab in the public sector.

Over the years it has also been observed that some elements are allergic to the name of Sharif Family and people who work in any institution which they have tried to establish, are defamed and humiliated for no fault. Just to recall a few instances. Dr. Saeed a noted paediatrician was appointed Project Director of the Children Hospital and Institute of Child Health established at Ferozepur Road Lahore. First some people and organizations tried to bribe him to get some favours in the purchase of electro medical equipment and when he refused, he was implicated in false corruption cases, was arrested, defamed and humiliated. Every effort was made to malign him in the media and his character assassination went on for quite some time. However, eventually Truth always prevails. Despite numerous enquiries nothing could be proved against him and the files were closed. Dr. Saeed personally shared with me the mental torture he had to bear at the hands of these elements but they failed to achieve their nefarious designs.

Another distinguished physician who faced the wrath of these elements was a renowned cardiologist of Pakistan. When General Musharraf toppled the Government of Mian Nawaz Sharif, one of the first things it did was the removal of Prof. Shaharyar Sheikh as Executive Director of Punjab Institute of Cardiology simply because he was considered to be too close to the Sharif Family. His only crime was that he was devoted and dedication to his profession. As Project Director of PIC, he did not mind to visit even clerks and section officers in the Secretariat to ensure that the files of different development projects which he had initiated at PIC were completed. He not only made every effort to get maximum funding for PIC but also managed to utilize those funds which other health institutions could not utilize in time as he always had some schemes ready. He will put up those cases and get the un-used funds of other institutions transferred to PIC and they were successfully utilized in time. He spent lot of time at the institute and personally supervised different projects. Utilizing his contacts in the Government and other institutions, he was able to accomplish a lot. Gen. Musharraf regime started enquiries against him, he had to undergo lot of mental torture, face enquiries and investigations for months and months but the authorities failed to find any wrong doing or corruption. Hence, they had to close the files in this case too. General Musharraf and his colleagues got a “perfect message” when the world community of cardiologists elected him as President of World Heart Federation in appreciation and recognition of his services to promote the discipline of cardiology and cardiac care of patients. He had the support and blessing of his friend Prof. Abdus Samad another distinguished interventional cardiologist of Pakistan as well. Gen. Musharraf and his friends must have felt ashamed at the treatment they had meted out to Prof. Shahryar Sheikh the kind hearted, God fearing distinguished cardiologist of Pakistan. One wish that after closing the enquiries against him, the authorities were magnanimous enough to issue him a Certificate that they failed to find any case of wrong doing or corruption against him but this is something which never happens in Pakistan. I wish people like Dr. Saeed and Prof. Shahryar Sheikh write their personal memoirs, document all these things and share it with their colleagues as well as the society at large. Humiliation of distinguished physicians in Pakistan is not something new and the list is a quite long of those who had to suffer. Late Prof. Iftikhar Ahmad former Principal of KEMC had rightly stated that in Pakistan, “It is the Lassi which rules over the Cream”.

Let us encourage our talented physicians and surgeons who despite great odds are trying to improve the health services in the country. They should be given due respect and recognition rather than taking steps which will tarnish the image of our medical institutions and professionals.

Ref.1. Dil Rawaan Dawaan by Prof. Col. Masood Ahmad Cheema. Published by Sange Meel Publications, Lahore. Page 39-40.

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