Your child needs surgery – come back in 2016

Published: April 26, 2012
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As a nation we simply do not make health care a priority. PHOTO: OMAR CHUGTAI

Here’s something interesting that happened a few days ago. I was going about my routine afternoon work when I was interrupted by a lady who walked into my office with a cute four-year-old boy by her side.

The lady introduced herself as the daughter of a maid who used to work at our house a long time ago. As she spoke I could not help but notice the little boy, Rehman was his name, as he had already started fiddling with a pen that had been sitting on my desk.

As my attention shifted back to the mother, she handed me a prescription for Rehman. It showed that they had been to a hospital just a few hours earlier, and the boy had been diagnosed with an inguinal hernia. The mother was in despair because the hospital staff had deemed the hernia repair a routine procedure, and asked her to get registered for the waiting list for elective surgeries.

Guess how long that waiting list was? Rehman was scheduled for surgery some time in 2016 – four years from today!

It troubles me that a child would have to wait four years to get a minor surgical procedure. Rehman’s condition is not an emergency on most days. He is perfectly fine for the majority of the time, but when he runs around and plays with his friends, the hernia starts to hurt. In fact, the last time it had hurt so much that the little boy nearly passed out.

It is plain for all to see that health care facilities in our society are overwhelmed. As a nation we simply do not make health care a priority. We spend around 2% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on health.

While the government has set up some outstanding facilities and centres of excellence, there is simply not enough capacity in the system to cater to all of our needs.

No one should have to wait four years to undergo a minor procedure. The only alternative for patients is to seek health care in private facilities. In fact more than 75% of health care in Pakistan is now provided by the private sector. That, however, does not mean that all private health care facilities provide good service. In fact, there is a large chunk of private health care facilities that provide very poor quality care. While the child may not have to wait for surgery in such a facility, he may develop infection afterwards.

We could dwell for a long time over the pros and cons of the various healthcare solutions. We could talk about universal healthcare and about private versus public care.

However this post is not about numbers and pointing fingers. This post is about a boy who needs surgery. A minor, 15 minute procedure and he will no longer be afraid to run or climb a tree.

I do not have the solution to the larger health care crisis. I don’t know how or when we will be able to provide reasonable care to all who need it. But I do know people, and I can call in a couple of favours.

Rehman is scheduled for surgery today. We will figure out the rest later.

This post originally appeared here.

 Read more by Omar here, or follow him on Twitter @OmarChughtai

Omar Chughtai

Omar Chughtai

An avid reader of blogs who works as Lab Director at Chughtais Lahore Lab. Omar tweets @OmarChughtai.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.