Since the start of COVID-19 pandemic in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in February this year, the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) of colonial era in provincial capital of KP has been entertaining the influx of coronavirus patients from mountainous Chitral district to DI Khan in South. The hospital was named after wife of British Viceroy Lord Reading in 1927.

It is pertinent to mention that Lady Reading, the wife of Viceroy Reading was very fond of Peshawar city and liked its view from the historic fort Qila Balahisar (Fort Balahisar). Once during a visit to Peshawar, she fell from the horse and got injuries while taking a round of the city and she was taken to Agerton hospital for treatment but due to lake of medical facilities she was shifted to Royal Military Hospital (Now Combined Military Hospital).

After few years in 1927, she visited Peshawar again and expressed her desire to upgrade Agerton Hospital and donated rupees Rs. 52000/ (fifty two thousand rupees) for the hospital.

The Agerton Hospital was later renamed as Lady Reading Hospital (LRH). Lady Reading Hospital is well known across the province as well as the country due to best health services being provided to patients by expert doctors in many specialities including the fatal coronavirus now a days.

LRH came under enormous pressure of the suspected coronavirus patients during last three months seeking early diagnoses and treatment, but its computerized healthcare system, treatment and medical facilities remained unmatched during the pandemic.

As a result, many of the coronavirus affected patients returned homes upon full recovery from the disease due to unprecedented services of its doctors and other health professionals during COVID-19 crisis.

The KP's premier hospital remained a center of hope for thousands of patients in very crisis whether it was 2005 earthquake, war against terror, coronavirus pandemic and has never disappointed the masses. Patients from all the thirty five (35) districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including seven merged tribal districts and even from Afghanistan are utilizing its services due to significant improvement in its healthcare system, strengthening of infrastructure and medical, dignostic and surgical services that turned around during last seven years in the KP province.

The government of PTI has spent billions of rupees on health care system of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa besides upgradation of medical facilities including construction of new wards, upgradation of testing labs, installation of modern health machinery, introduction of computerised health care system at LRH.

"In every crisis, there was an opportunity. "Today, we can build on what PTI's work of the last few years, & take KP's healthcare system to the next level," said Taimur Salim Jhagra, Provincial Minister for Health.

A COVID-19 test laboratory was also being established in hospital where a high dependency unit and two ICUs for critical patients of the virus, have been already established. A telemedicine service has been launched at hospital where coronavirus suspects were being provided free consultation services by specialist doctors.

After coming into power in 2013, PTI Government accorded top priority to revemp the outdated healthcare system by introducing scores of reforms and projects in hospitals to provide quality and affordable health services to all.

For the first time in the history of the province, full autonomy with complete authority in promotions, recruitments, equipment and accountability for physicians was ensured. Recruitments and promotions in all cadres were decided on merit by physicians themselves based on new regulations contrary to the past practice of an aged based promotion and length of service with no regard to merit and transparency.

Prior to 2013, there was no autonomy and all recruitments, promotions, equipment and uplift programmes were decided by non-expert bureaucrats and politicians, official sources in Health Department told APP.

PTI Government has introduced bylaws under which working hours in public sector hospitals including LRH were aligned with modern practice that improved health delivery system and efficiency of the staff manifolds.

During past regimes, medical professionals including paramedics and nurses were forced to perform long hours duties without financial incentives while doctors were allowed to serve only for five hours which created sense of deprivation among junior doctors, nurses, paramedics and thus its overall health delivery system has been badly affected.

To break the nexus of doctors and commission agents in pharmaceutical, medicines, laboratory, surgical companies, the PTI Govt has institutionalized private practice (IPP) within public sector hospitals including LRH where private patients are being treated by senior consultants on affordable fee as compared to Dabgari Gardens, a hub of private medical practitioners and laboratories which was a source of minting money from poor patients in the name of quality treatment. 

As LRH has set a unique example for medical teaching institutions (MTI) in KP, PTI Government has strengthened its medical faculty by recruiting record 150 physicians on merit in one year, which is more than all recruitments in previous 15 years to cope with the massive challenge of COVID-19. Similarly, 800 new nurses were recruited, raising its current strength to 1050. 

Medical equipments worth billion of rupees were purchased for LRH during the last four years and hospital services were computerized.

The 300- bed building remained pending since 2011 at LRH due to lackluster approach of past governments and its non-completion exerted extra load on other departments due to coronavirus pandemic.

Accepting the challenge, PTI Government has operationalized a brand new 400 bedded building by equipping it with latest equipment worth Rs. 2.26 billion, 24 state-of-the-art operating suites, intensive care units and developed other  new programmes including biometric services.

First modern accident and emergency department with recruitment of four British trained emergency physicians has now become part of accident and emergency department in KP.

KP's first ever Interventional Radiology (IR) programme with services of consultants radiologists with equipment worth Rs. 100 million was setup besides establishment of new rheumatology programme and that free medicines to all indoor patients were being ensured.

Keeping in view of enormous difficulties of persons with disabilities, first modern Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Medicine Department were established in KP.

All gates of the hospital, which were used as thoroughfare, with dogs and cats roaming freely in the past, have now been fully secured through deployment of security staff 24/7.

Above all, doctors nurses and paramedics are rendering unmatched services for COVID-19 patients at LRH. Today, all major hospitals including LRH were providing best healthcare services to people of KP during the coronavirous pandemic and confidence of masses was restored.