LAHORE – Unqualified nurses, unskilled paramedics, and improper pre- and post-operative care facilities are the main reasons for the obsession of rich patients with going abroad for treatment of even minor diseases.

Although a number of surgeries such as heart and lung transplantation are not carried out in both public and private sector hospitals of Pakistan, what defies logic is that those who can afford, or get government sponsorship, prefer to go abroad for treatment of even routine abnormalities, mainly to ensure proper handling and avoid post-operative complications.

The prevailing health care system in Pakistan focuses on higher education of only doctors, not on imparting training to or improving skills of nurses and paramedics, two important segments in health care service delivery in the shape of patient handling and operation of sophisticated equipment.

Because of lack of proper training of paramedics, most of the sophisticated equipment is either dysfunctional or lying unattended at public sector hospitals.

“In developed countries, a patient is owned by a nurse and not by a physician or a surgeon. The doctor just visits, prescribes medicine and gives medical advice, while the rest is taken care of by nurses. Well-educated and trained nurses handle all the indoor patients with care and responsibility. In Pakistan, the scenario is exactly the opposite and ownership of patient belongs to a consultant,” said Allama Iqbal Medical College (AIMC) Principal Prof Javaid Akram.

He further said there was a dire need to focus on imparting higher education and specialized training to nurses for improving handling of patients during treatment, and before and after surgical procedures. “Women adopt the nursing profession by choice in the developed world. We also need to give due attention to this noble profession and respect to nurses to motivate them to improve their education and skill,” he stressed.

Prof Akram further said that there was hardly any foreign qualified nurse in Pakistan and almost all of them possessed only basic education. The situation should be improved in the larger interest of the medical profession and suffering humanity, he viewed.

“There are 114 areas of specialisation for paramedics. Equipment handling in Pakistan is not that appropriate because paramedics are not properly trained. There is a need to give due attention to this field since purchase of sophisticated and costly equipment without proper training of paramedics will be of no use for the patients,” said Prof Akram, adding that there is a need to train paramedics to properly handle the available equipment.

The AIMC principal said that before procuring more equipment, paramedical staff should be imparted education and training to handle them. Supporting the idea of allowing nurses and paramedics to go abroad for higher education and training at well-equipped medical institutions, he said that this brain gain was in the best interest of the country.

“Return of these nurses and paramedics after training, and spending time at well-equipped hospitals abroad, will motivate patients to seek treatment in the country. Giving incentives and due respect to these qualified health care providers at hospitals in the country will stop brain drain and suffering humanity will benefit from it,” he said.

Referring to the treatment of influential people abroad on government expenses, he said that there was a need to involve medical experts in the decision-making and only those patients who could not be treated in the country should be allowed to avail this facility.