Courtesy by: thenews.com.pk
A two-bed Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) Unit was inaugurated Tuesday at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), making it the country’s first public sector hospital offering such a facility.
The unit, which has been made possible by virtue of a public-private partnership between PIMS and the Care 2 Children (C2C) Foundation of Italy, has been established in memory of an Italian child Simone Montomoli, who died of cancer, and whose parents contributed 15,000 euros for the civil works of the project in Pakistan.
Minister for Health Mir Aijaz Khan Jhakrani inaugurated the centre in the presence of Italian Ambassador Vincenzo Prati, executive director PIMS Dr Abdul Majeed Rajput, managing director Pakistan Baitual Maal Zamarrud Khan, and Italian paediatric onco-hematologist Dr Lawrence Faulkner, who undertook several visits to Pakistan for materialisation of the project.
The unit will initially function with the assistance of C2C Foundation, which has not only committed to finance the cost of the first six transplants but also of the salaries of the nine staff members appointed for the unit.
“The cost of one transplant in Pakistan is approximately Rs1.2 million. As such, C2C Foundation will contribute a total of Rs7.5 million in treatment costs. It will also bear the cost of staff salaries for a period of two years or till such time that the Rs500 million PC-1 of the project is approved by the government,” Dr Rajput told the audience, simultaneously urging Jhakrani for expeditious approval of the PC-1 so that the facility can be expanded to a 16-bed unit.
Addressing the ceremony, Jhakrani thanked the government of Italy, the C2C Foundation, and the parents of the deceased child for supporting the project, and assured that the PC-1 would be accorded priority in processing and approval as the current facility is grossly insufficient to cater to the needs of all patients requiring bone marrow transplantation.
The unit will carry out bone marrow transplants for thalassemia, aplastic anaemia and childhood leukemias. Thalassemia major is the most common life-threatening genetic disease. Even though long-term supportive care with regular red cell transfusion and intensive chelation therapy may prolong life expectancy to the fourth decade of life, bone marrow transplantation remains the only curative option. Pakistan has around 50,000 registered children suffering from Thalassemia, and about 5,000 new cases are adding up every year.
The six initial transplants will be performed under the supervision of Italian bone marrow transplant doctors nurses, who will also train local professionals for the sake of long-term sustainability of the facility.
Dr Rajput informed that PIMS will be providing infrastructural facilities and support services including diagnostic facilities, equipment and free drugs to patients, whereas the C2C Foundation will provide bone marrow transplant specific tests, which will initially be outsourced and eventually help PIMS to establish these facilities. He said, PIMS will soon be in a position to offer training to other aspiring hospitals and professionals; a commitment to this effect has already been made with the Lahore Children’s Hospital.
The managing director of Baitul Maal paid rich tributes to Dr Sadaf and Dr Khalid for their dedication to the project. He suggested that a certain chunk of the funds available to senators and MNAs should be channelled to the health sector. Zamurrad Khan announced a donation of Rs300,000 in support of treatment of BMT patients. He also shared details of the five new projects being initiated by Baitul Mal. These envisage provision of wheelchairs, hearing aids, and white canes, as well as the establishment of five hepatitis treatment centres in Quetta, Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar.
Zamurrad Khan said, Baitul Mal would provide Rs25,000 to each family with a disabled person. He said, 1,500 wheelchairs have been provided to disabled persons ever since August 15. “Please refer to us, any person requiring a wheelchair, and we will do the needful,” he assured.
Earlier, Italian ambassador Vincenzo Prati expressed his country’s desire to expand cooperation with Pakistan in the domain of health. He invited Jhakrani to visit Italy for exploration of joint avenues. He suggested that a seminar on health cooperation should be planned in Lahore in November.
Dr Lawrence Faulkner shared how impressed he was with the professionalism of the Pakistani team that worked on the initiative. “More help will, however, be needed to build on this initial success and make it sustainable,” he commented, hoping that the unit would provide a scenario for training of health professionals while also motivating Pakistani doctors abroad to return and serve in Pakistan.