“If you live long enough, you'll see that every victory turns into a defeat,” observed Simone de Beauvoir, a french philosopher. No other quote can aptly sum up the life and works of late Dr. Zaheer Ahmed, founder of Shifa Hospitals. Thankfully, his untimely death has spared him the torment to witness the values of his enterprise: “Compassion, Commitment, Teamwork, Quality, Respect and Accountability” being ruthlessly trounced by its so-called strategic priority: “Financial Strength/Viability”. The charitable spirit and promise of easement perished with Dr.Zaheer, all that is left is a money-amassing goliath masquerading as a gracious, humane David.

Dr. Zaheer Ahmed’s life story is worthy of being documented in a biography.  A splendid tale of ‘rags to riches’, from ‘nobody to a renowned being’. Story of a boy from Pakistan who made his way to America, becomes a doctor of substance, decides to return to his native land to do a bit or two to straighten an awry health sector for the betterment of masses. Our prodigal son materializes his dream in the shape of Shifa Foundation, to contribute in alleviating woes of health sector and Tameer-e-millat Foundation, founded in 1987, to provide quality education to all strata of society, without discrimination of any kind.  

What a top-drawer story, right?    

Right, but that is that, a story spinned around a legend.  Reality, on the contrary, portrays a picture diametrically opposite to all that was ‘intended’ by the legend, and all that is ‘achieved’ is dismal and vile.

Now the ‘fairy godmother’ aura of Shifa Hospital, that made people see the whole enterprise as an institute brimming with compassion and piety, is all but ancient history. The manhandling of patients and their relatives by the doctors and para-medical staff at Shifa is so commonplace that it has lost its newsworthiness. There are countless instances where the administration refused to hand-over the dead body till the payment of outstanding bills. All the catchy slogans and mighty ideas of humanity and compassion seem nothing but claptrap. The singular instances of allowing doctors holding fake degrees to practice, the exorbitant fees of its medical college that border on daylight robbery,  being investigated for land-grabbing in the prime location of capital are heard every now and then.  

All thanks to the above practices, the earnings of the Shifa hospitals run in millions of rupees daily. Their weapon of choice, to siphon off patient’s money from the very onset, is rushing the patient into ‘Intensive Care Unit’. Whether he/she is serious enough to be in ICU is a question that is paid no heed at all.  From then on, the ‘metre’ starts running, the room charges, the doctor’s fee, the medicine expenditure, the miscellaneous expense, the list goes on. The ‘metre’ of expenses, for some unfortunate souls, doesn’t even stop at the patient’s death. For those lucky enough to survive Shifa hospital narrowly, the wellbeing and health comes at a hefty price. A price that reminds them constantly of dichotomy dividing a false image presented by Shifa and of the ‘services’ doled out unnecessarily.                  

Now, Shifa International Hospitals Ltd comprises of various associated companies, ranging from a cooperative housing society to a consultancy firm. The Shifa Hospitals has extended itself remarkably. Prima facie, it presents itself as an entity spearheading the cause of compassion, emanating the light of magnanimity. If one tries to dig a little deep, dares to mull over what lies behind the shiny, humongous facade of Shifa hospital and ask the people about the experience they had at the hospital, one begins to see that the skeletons in the closet of Shifa stench of endless greed.

Now, Shifa Hospital stands for a visionary’s cause being corrupted beyond recognition and a piece of land obtained for charitable purposes is now used to pursue private ends of accumulating wealth. It is a racket to perpetuate a vicious cycle where modest patients are made to run from pillar to post for medicine that is only available with the hospital pharmacy.     

The word ‘Shifa’ means to cure, to heal. In our age where words and their meanings are devoid of any connection whatsoever.  The hospital has lost its raison d'être in totality. Once upon a time it enjoyed the trust of all and sundry. In the President's message, available on their site, the late Dr. Zaheer wrote, “Alhamdulillah , we came out contented. We resisted temptations, faced up pressures and upheld the values we believe and talk about”. Sir, with all due respect, it was ‘you’ who resisted the temptations, it was ‘you’ who came out contented, it was ‘you’ who upheld the values you believed in.

Now after two decades no one believes in the beautiful, soothing myth peddled by Shifa Hospital. The myth has given way to the monster that was in its safekeeping.

Now, the choice is to either slay the monster behind the myth, or being slayed piecemeal by it.

Choose wisely.