5 billion people lack access to safe and affordable anesthesia and surgical care resulting in over 17 million preventable deaths each year and further responsible for one-third (28-32%) of the global burden of disease. To scale up access to safe surgical, anesthetical and obstetric care for all especially in a lower-middle income country like Pakistan, inclusion of health professionals, public health specialists and policymakers is necessary to address the disparities.
For this purpose, the ministry of National Health Services Pakistan and Indus Hospital Network collaborated to hold a joint stakeholder conference in Islamabad on November 16th and 17th, 2018. The conference was attended by the federal ministries, provincial government departments, local and international surgeons, anesthetists and obstetricians. A steering committee of 25 local and international experts guided the process. The steering committee was chaired by Dr. Safi Malik, Director Programs-MONHSRC and Dr. Sania Nishtar, President Heartfile.
This was the first time a conference of this kind was held in Pakistan. Titled National Vision for Surgical Care (NVSC) 2025, the event was an effort to gather the experts from all concerned sectors to create a roadmap for strengthening surgical facilities in Pakistan. Apart from the local stakeholders, among the speakers were Dr John Maera from the Program in Global Surgery and Social Change (PGSSC) at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Walt Johnson from the WHO’s Global Initiative for Emergency and Essential Surgical Care (GIEESC) and Adrian Gelb, board member at the World Federation of Societies of Anesthesiologists (WFSA).
Pakistan a lower middle income country has an estimated 16.9 million deaths from surgically preventable diseases each year which includes 187 deaths per 100,000 people from surgical conditions compared to 164 per 100,000 attributed to all infectious diseases combined. Despite the popular opinion that surgical facilities are expensive to provide, research has shown that it is cost effective in the long run.
Through this initiative Pakistan has become the first country to embark on the National Surgical, Obstetric and Anesthesia Planning (NSOAP) in Asia. The planning will be led by Ministry of Health and Indus Hospital Network with the expertise provided by the Harvard PGGSSC and WHO that has successfully helped create and enforce the individualized plans in other countries in Africa including Rwanda, Zambia and Tanzania. The plan will provide a comprehensive framework to strengthen the surgical system in the country in terms of infrastructure, technical expertise and service delivery. It will also engage the stakeholders from grassroot level to promote and ensure evaluation for safer surgical practices in the country.
IFMSA-Pakistan Global Surgery National Working Group was honored to be invited to participate and assist in the logistical capacity. The Working Group which has been involved in advocacy and education regarding Global Surgery was represented by Zainab Majoka (Fauji Foundation Medical College), Behram Khan (Punjab Medical College) and Maryam Ali Khan (CMH Lahore Medical College). The conference participants recognized and reinforced the role students and young doctors can play in improving surgical access in the country. Presence in the conference hence reaffirms IFMSA-Pakistan’s ideology of bringing positive change in the health sector of the country. IFMSA-Pakistan’s presence also ensures that youth will now have more opportunities to get involved in advocacy and research in Global Surgery in the very near future!