The country’s first dedicated transplant centre established at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) was inaugurated on Wednesday. This milestone has been achieved for the country by private individuals and donors. Such developments are often the only hope for people as the government has failed to provide quality healthcare to the growing population. The Suleman Dawood family donated generously to the project and the centre has a 100-station dialysis unit and a full-fledged oncology ward.

The institute has been built at the cost of Rs1.5 billion in four years. While the government has provided little space or means for doctors and scientists to research and innovate in the medical field, Dr Adib Rizvi has been able to create a lifesaving facility at the Civil Hospital Karachi.

The institute is an extended arm of Civil Hospital Karachi, one of the largest teaching hospitals in Pakistan. Since it was set up as an eight-bed ward 40 years ago, SIUT has emerged as a world-class kidney disease centre in Pakistan, performing the highest number of successful renal transplants, dialysis sessions and treatment of kidney stone disease anywhere in the world. As part of the Civil Hospital, the facility will be available to the general population, and not just for the elites like many private hospitals.

In the late 70s, no medical facility in Pakistan offered renal transplant, and Dr Abid quietly set about to developing a team of doctors, nurses, technicians and other staff to train them for transplant surgery. The rooftop of one of the hospital buildings was quietly taken over and served as their experimental lab. In December 1985, they performed Pakistan’s first successful kidney transplant.

The government celebrated it as a national achievement, though it was the effort of a few doctors in a personal capacity. To date, nearly 5,000 free organ transplants have been performed, in addition to 750 dialysis sessions on a daily basis.

Healthcare is something that always leads to better productivity of the national workforce. The only problem is that the dividends are seen in the long run, and thus healthcare (and education) never become a priority for any sitting government. The government must step up and provide the public with specialised care facilities modelled on SIUT and, most importantly, provide resources for doctors to excel and innovate. Unlike western countries, we have a larger burden of disease and population, and if doctors are given the right resources and incentives, Pakistani minds can find solutions to problems western medicine has no experience for dealing regularly with.