How will healthcare in Purana Pakistan be different from Naya Pakistan?

It was early April 2020 when I received a call from an unknown number the caller introduced himself as Dr Faisal Sultan, the PM’s contact person on COVID-19 when I picked up.

Dr Faisal wanted me to review a scientific article in the reputed British Medical Journal (BMJ) before discussing some health-related issues related to my news report on the increasing number of people being brought dead to hospitals in Karachi.

“Waqar, this is Dr Faisal Sultan, the Prime Minister’s contact person on COVID-19. Dr Zafar Mirza from SAPM has shown me your news report. I have sent you the link to an article in the BMJ that appeared today. […] He also talks about mysterious deaths of people infected with coronavirus, without symptoms of respiratory disease. I want you to read this article first and then we can talk,” he said and hung up.

I opened the link to the BMJ article, which dealt with the results of the autopsies of a few dozen people who had died after being infected with coronavirus in Germany but who did not have the classic symptoms of the viral disease.

The authors of the BMJ scientific article claimed that the deaths occurred due to “deep vein thrombosis” or blood clots in the legs, arguing that the coronavirus was also responsible for blood clotting in the vascular system.

When I called him, Dr Faisal asked the hospitals in Karachi if they brought me the autopsies of people who returned. We also discussed how the coronavirus behaved in different people, its ability to kill people without affecting their lungs, cause strokes and pulmonary embolism, etc.

This was my first interaction with one of Pakistan’s most knowledgeable and qualified infectious disease experts, who later replaced Dr Mirza, another highly qualified and trained public health expert, as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) in Health.

I soon learned that Dr Faisal is an Abdalian, Cadet College Hasan Abdal alumnus who did his MBBS from King Edward Medical College Lahore and trained in Internal Medicine at the University of Connecticut in 1992 and then in Infectious Diseases from Washington University School. of Medicine in 1995.

At the time of his appointment as the Prime Minister’s Contact Person on COVID-19 in Pakistan and later as SAPM in August 2020, Dr Faisal was serving as CEO of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, Lahore.

While serving as a technical SAPM in Health, Dr Faisal commanded Pakistan’s war against COVID-19 very effectively, assisted the National Command and Operations Center (NCOC), and managed to organize COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX, China, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom. He also implemented an extremely vigilant and effective system in which vaccinations were administered in a disciplined manner initially to all health care providers, to the elderly, and then to the rest of the Pakistani population.

I used to interact with Dr Faisal regularly during the pandemic, from which I learned a lot from him about infectious diseases, available and emerging treatments of viral and bacterial diseases, variants of COVID-19, the concept of herd immunity, how vaccines the work, the use of messenger RNA technology, the burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases in Pakistan and the rest of the world, the difficulties faced in treating cancer in Pakistan and many other problems in the health sector.

Dr Faisal’s most admirable characteristic was that he remained apolitical during his tenure as SAPM, never indulging in dirty politics, despite being part of the “most controversial government in Pakistan’s history”. Perhaps that was the reason why he was never targeted by any opposition party. Instead, Dr Faisal, as an expert on health issues, was treated as a respected official by the provincial governments and their ministers of health in the country.

‘Health care in Purana Pakistan’

As soon as the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government announced the name of PPP MNA Abdul Qadir Patel as federal minister for National Health Services and Regulations and Coordination (NHS, R&C), people in the networks social began to compare him with highly trained and qualified Dr Faisal Sultan.

“Abdul Qadir Patel’s only relationship to healthcare is that he is a co-defendant in the case with Dr Asim Hussain for harbouring and causing terrorists, mostly Lyari gangsters, to be treated at Ziauddin Hospital,” says court reporter Jamal Khurshid.

As the newly sworn-in federal health minister has no training or work experience in the health sector, many people in Pakistan’s health sector are very concerned about his appointment as health minister, but he may have some talent. hidden through which he could prove his critics wrong.

“Let’s see how it relates to the National Health Services. It is now a policy-making ministry with limited resources, so it is not a very attractive position for politicians. Most likely, he will resign soon,” said an official from the federal bureaucracy.