ISLAMABAD - On 29th of December, 2019 Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (SKMCH&RC), has successfully completed 25 years of serving cancer patients. Imran Khan’s dream to build a modern hospital that provides state-of-the-art cancer diagnostic and treatment facilities, irrespective of the patient’s ability to pay, was to honour the memory of his mother, Shaukat Khanum.

When he presented this idea, many people were of the view that it is impossible to achieve, and some said, even if it is built it can never function with the mission of treating the poor patients free of cost. Miraculously, the Hospital was not only built but it is continuously providing financially supported treatment to over 75 per cent patients and has spent over Rs 39 billion on free treatment.

None of this would have been possible without unconditional, and unflagging, support from people of Pakistan. This indeed is a great achievement of its supporters, well-wishers and the entire team who chose to work this institute to serve their fellow countrymen.

At that time there was a scarcity of proper healthcare facilities and cancer was a disease for which there was minimal hope.

Most treatable cancers were diagnosed at an advanced stage and by that time, even the most expensive treatment would result in an adverse outcome. The establishment of SKMCH&RC meant that Pakistan was receiving its first cancer treatment facility.

In 1989, Imran Khan launched a nation-wide appeal, followed by a campaign to collect funds through 50 fundraising events around the world. Support for the cause was overwhelming in all tiers of society.

In 1994, when the project required additional financing, Imran Khan travelled to 29 cities in Pakistan in the form of a mass-contact campaign to raise funds for the completion of the project. As a result, SKMCH&RC opened its doors to patients on December 29, 1994.

As part of our ongoing commitment to remain at the cutting edge of innovation and technology, we now have the largest and most modern radiation oncology department in the country, with four linear accelerators, all with IMRT, IGRT, and VMAT capability, a large bore CT simulator and a 4D CT simulator, HDR brachytherapy and the latest comprehensive treatment planning system.

Two linear accelerators are high energy with Rapid Arc and on-board imaging capability. We are currently in the final stages of installation of a fifth radiation machine, which has stereotactic radiation capability, and is the most advanced medical linear accelerator currently available, and the first of its kind to be installed in Pakistan. Likewise, the radiation oncology department at SKMCH&RC, Peshawar, is also now fully functional, with two state-of-the-art linear accelerators installed.

Our focus has always been to maintain the highest standards of patient care. SKMCH&RC, Lahore became the first charitable hospital in Pakistan to earn the Gold Seal of Approval® by the Joint Commission International (JCI), and today both our hospitals, in Lahore and Peshawar, are accredited by the JCI, having received this prestigious award after demonstrating continuous compliance with JCI’s internationally recognized standards.

Over the past 25 years, our Hospitals have recorded over two million outpatient visits, and we have provided over 1.6 million therapeutic sessions of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.

Our aim has been to provide services based on the principles of quality and equality, and to ensure that our patients receive care that enhances the quality of life.

Our biggest challenge remains our limited resources. Cancer is a unique disease that requires regular follow-up over many years, even after active treatment has been completed.

This means that, as we register new patients in the system each year, they join a large body of patients who have completed active treatment, but for whom we continue to provide care for several years following this.

As cancer incidence is on the rise, we are required to make difficult decisions as to whom we should provide cancer care to, since no one hospital can hope to treat all the patients who develop cancer in Pakistan each year.

With the completion of the hospital in Peshawar, and the commencement of work on our third, and biggest so far, cancer hospital in Karachi, we hope that we will go some way towards achieving our goal for the next  25 years, which is that most or all cancer patients in Pakistan should be able to receive the best possible cancer care in a Shaukat Khanum cancer facility, no matter where they are in Pakistan.

The budget for the year 2020 is Rs.17 billion, a sum which will not only allow the Hospital to continue to provide free cancer treatment to over 75 per cent to 80 per cent of all cancer patients seen in Peshawar and Lahore, but also to fund the construction of the Clinical Tower in Lahore, the development of surgical services in Peshawar and the construction of the hospital in Karachi. As in the past, about half of this is expected to be met by generous donations and Zakat of people from across the world.

This hospital is a substantial symbol of a son’s tribute to his mother, and with its decade’s long performance, now it has become the symbol of hope for thousands of mothers.

Insha Allah, with the help of people of Pakistan, it will continue to serve the humanity, on even more comprehensive scale for next  25 years.