- The hospital, which will be completed with an estimated cost of Rs6.2bn, is planned to become operational by Dec 2021
The year 2019 marks the silver jubilee (25 years) of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (SKMCH&RC), Lahore. This makes the current year special for us. I am pleased to say that during this long journey, we have kept true to our mission of acting as a model institution to alleviate the suffering of patients with cancer through the application of modern methods of curative and palliative therapy irrespective of their ability to pay. The standard of our services is being recognized by Joint Commission International (JCI), as the hospital was awarded the accreditation last year.
According to the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), 2018 saw more than 18 million new cases of cancer, causing 9.6 million deaths. Half of the cancer-related deaths occurred in Asia alone. Alarmingly, after cardiovascular diseases, cancer has become the second major reason for deaths in Pakistan. There are two core reasons behind such a high ratio of deaths. Firstly, lack of awareness – in most of the cases patients consult the doctor at a very advanced stage in which the chances of survival are minimal. Secondly, unavailability of latest technology and cancer hospitals – approximately 150,000 to 200,000 new cancer cases are being reported every year in Pakistan, and unfortunately, the facilities available to treat such a high number of patients are much less.
SKMCH&RC, founded 24 years ago by Imran Khan, for the underprivileged cancer patients, has now become the identity of Pakistan with regard to cancer treatment. Thirty-nine billion rupees have so far been spent in providing free treatment to deserving cancer patients over the years. And now, by the grace of Almighty, after a long and hard journey, the construction of Pakistan’s third and largest SKMCH&RC in Karachi has also started. This long-awaited project, which has been made possible by the purchase, at advantageous rates, of 20 acres of land from the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), will provide state-of-the-art cancer treatment facilities to people of Sindh and Balochistan, who will be able to access comprehensive diagnostic and therapeutic cancer facilities under one roof, entirely free of charge for those who cannot afford to pay. Its construction will also help enhance healthcare standards and develop training and employment opportunities in the wider region as a whole.
As the treatment of cancer is mostly a long process and many patients from southern Pakistan cannot afford to make repeated physically, emotionally, and financially demanding trips to seek treatment at our existing facilities in Lahore and Peshawar, thus it was of utmost importance that a cancer hospital be constructed in Karachi.
In line with its mission to ensure access to the poor, over 75pc of our cancer patients receive free cancer care and this noble practice will continue in Karachi as well. We expect to complete the construction of the hospital over a three-year time-frame, at an estimated cost of Rs6.2 billion, with the hospital planned to open in December 2021 with all the essential clinical and support departments one would expect of a facility of this nature. These will include Medical Oncology, Pediatrics Oncology, Clinical and Radiation Oncology, Surgical Oncology, Anaesthesia, Radiology, Internal Medicine, Nuclear Medicine and Pathology. The hospital will be equipped with the latest cancer care technology, including state-of-the-art diagnostic facilities, radiation treatment planning and delivery systems as well.
I would like to conclude with special thanks from the core of my heart to all our well-wishers, supporters and donors, that none of this would have been possible without their unconditional, and unflagging, support. It is a hard fact that people of Pakistan are generous enough to donate for such noble cause, provided, they have absolute belief that their money will be spent with great uprightness and professionalism on the welfare of underprivileged people.
And as we embark on this journey to Karachi, the philanthropic heart of the country, my absolute belief in the generosity of the people of Pakistan, especially Karachi, means that I have no doubt that they will open their hearts once again to help us complete this humanitarian project on time.
About the author: Dr Faisal Sultan is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre.