August 4, 2008

By Dr. Rubina Mumtaz

Our primary healthcare clinic is expanding at a tremendous rate. In the first quarter of 2008, the OPD showed an 80% increase which means from an average of 40-50 patients 140-150 patients a day. In the second quarter, the OPD slowed down slightly due to security concerns and political instability but was still higher than the previous year.

This increase can be attributed to the fact other health units operated by NGOs and the government after the earthquake have gradually phased out as their funding interests changed and moved to other parts of the world. The few government health units currently open are functioning without doctors and proper medicines plus they charge an entry fee to the patients. This has diverted a large flow of patients towards the RMF-HF health unit from across Tehsil Balakot and today we can safely say we are catering for119,364 people from five union councils including Talhatta, Shohal Moizullah, Garlat, Gari Habibullah and Balakot. Naturally this has put enormous burden on the supply and consumption pattern of medicines for the clinic staff. The economy of the Pakistan has been spiraling down at an alarming speed resulting in unprecedented price hikes of practically all necessary items. The combination of these factors is putting a tremendous strain on the RMF clinic budget.

Amidst this gloomy picture is a sliver lining where RMF-HF health unit received a mountain ambulance. We are very grateful to Vital Edge for this donation; the ambulance has proved to be a very real asset to the project. It links the RMF-HF health unit to surrounding remote areas as well as secondary and tertiary care hospitals in the region. The ambulance has been specially converted to the mountainous terrain and is fully equipped with machinery for first levels of basic life support. The initial benefits of the ambulance are monthly home visits of 10-15 patients who are house-bound by a variety of diseases.

Currently plans to incorporate a dental clinic within the existing health unit are underway. A fully equipped dental unit chair has been donated by Dr. Ayyaz Ali Khan, National Oral Health Coordinator for the Joint WHO-MOH Collaborative Program. This donation created a demand for trained dental professionals. The THQ hospital (secondary level government health unit) in Balakot has been taken over Islamabad based philanthropists who are working to spruce up the health services. An MOU is currently underway between RMF and these philanthropists whereby the THQ hospital will send their resident dental staff (a dentist and an auxiliary) to the RMF-HF dental section since the THQ hospital has machinery that it non-functional and inadequate. On the other hand, the RMF-HF clinic will refer their MCH patients to the THQ hospital. A positive conclusion of these negotiations is expected in the next couple of weeks.

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