Peshawar: Under construction for more than a decade now, Peshawar’s only Burn Hospital has yet to open in a city of 1,785,000 people. If completed, the Burn Hospital will also be the first in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province – of which Peshawar is the provincial capital – with a population of 26.9 million.

Marble Slab on Burn, Trauma and Reconstructive Surgery Centre: Photo by News Lens Pakistan

A marble slab fixed to the incomplete building of the ‘Burn, Trauma and Reconstructive Surgery Centre’ at the Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) in Peshawar shows that the project was initiated in July 3, 2003. It was inaugurated by the former chief minister Akram Khan Durrani at the time when Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) – a coalition of 6 religious parties – was in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). However, thirteen years since its inauguration, the province’s only burn centre awaits completion of its construction work to operate.

Since 2003, a number of political figures that came to power in the interim have re-inaugurated the facility, says an official at the Workers Welfare Board (WWB), bringing funds to build the hospital and renewing hopes that the facility would be completed during their governments.

“Besides A.K.Durrani, other officials and politicians have held curtain-raisers for the same project,” the official told Truth Tracker on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to media. “They include former-president Asif Ali Zardari, former-chief minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti and recently Zahir Ali Shah, a former member of provincial assembly,” the official added.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Health Department of KP and the Workers Welfare Fund (WWF), the former was to provide land for the hospital and the latter would construct and hand over the 120-bed hospital. The Health Department would have then operated the hospital bearing its expenses.

“The hospital is being constructed by WWB with the Workers Welfare Fund but its completion has been long delayed due to red-tape at the federal and provincial level,” said the official.

Asif Majeed, Director Works at WWB, noted that the delay in construction of the Burn Hospital was due to various reasons. He said the construction did not start right after its inauguration but in August 2010 due to lack of interest from the authorities and the dissolution of WWF governing body.

The 18th Amendment to the Constitution (2008) resulted in decentralisation of many federal entities to the provincial governments. The devolution of WWB to the provincial government was another reason for the delay, said Majeed, leaving the department in disarray because it had to start afresh at the provincial level. “Due to this the project was put on the back-burner,” he added. This didn’t just delay the launch of the only Burn Hospital in a province but has had financial implication for the completion of the project. Majeed said due to the inordinate delay in constructing the hospital, the total cost of building the hospital had increased by Rs.233 million – from Rs.532 million in 2003 to Rs.765 million now.

However he was optimistic about the early completion of project as. “More than 80 per cent of the construction work has already been done,” he said adding, “We have now submitted a revised proposal in December 2016 to WWF to seek funds. We are hopeful that it will be approved soon and will be followed by construction work.”

Doctors that Truth Tracker spoke to in the two leading hospitals in Peshawar stressed the need for an exclusive Burn Hospital in the province. They said people with burn injuries suffered tremendously due to the absence of such a facility.

Muhammad Tahir, in-charge of Burn Unit at Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH), said the annual statistics at the unit indicated that the number of burn cases had been increasing every year. But the only burn-care facility available to patients in the entire province, he said were small Burn Units at the Lady Reading Hospital and the Khyber Teaching Hospital.

“Both units lack specialized facilities essential for patients with burn injuries,” said Tahir. “Even a patient with a second degree burn cannot be treated in either of these centres. They have to be referred to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) in Islamabad or the burn-care unit of Combined Military Hospital in Kharian.”

Both of these hospitals have limited capacity, said Tahir, and are overburdened with local patients. “Mostly patients are admitted only if they have come with a reference from doctors that they need intensive care. Other patients are discharged after provision of basic first aid treatment.”

Asked about construction work on the hospital, an official at the provincial Health Department who didn’t want to be named said in keeping with the MoU signed with the WWB, the department had nothing to do with the project until it was completed and handed over to it.

Tahir said the health authorities at these hospitals approached the WWF and the provincial Health Department several times to ask for expediting the work on the burn hospital. “We have informed them of the situation but to no avail,” said Tahir.


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