How a Karachi blast spurred a medico to set up hospital chain

October 02, 2019

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The spark came in 1987, when a deadly bomb blast ripped apart Karachi’s Bohri Bazar, killing 200 and injuring thousands. — Anadolu Agency
The spark came in 1987, when a deadly bomb blast ripped apart Karachi’s Bohri Bazar, killing 200 and injuring thousands. — Anadolu Agency

A medical practitioner Abdul Bari Khan’s passion to help the underprivileged led him to establish a network of charity hospitals in Pakistan, currently treating 350,000 patients every month.

Located in a low-income eastern outskirt of the port city of Karachi, Indus Hospital — the largest campus of his chain — alone caters to more than 2,500 deprived patients every day, free of cost.

From primary health care to cardiac surgery and even treatment for challenging ailments like pediatric cancer are available free of cost in the network of hospitals, said Khan, who with his three college-mates established the facility in 2007, with an initial capacity of 150 beds.

"The simple objective behind this venture is to fill the gap left by the state-run health sector, which cannot cater to the growing number of patients, mainly in the country's underprivileged regions," Khan told Anadolu Agency.

The spark came in 1987, when a deadly bomb blast ripped apart Karachi’s busy Bohri Bazar, killing 200 people and injuring thousands.

A graduate from Dow Medical College Karachi, Khan discussed the idea to launch a parallel system that would provide quality and free of cost health facilities.

"I together with my friends pulled out several injured from the pile of dead bodies and shifted them to ambulances. Some of them died, as they could not reach hospital in time," he recalled.

"The stench of blood and their (injured) hue and cry, settled in my mind as the hospital emergency appeared unable to handle scores of injured," he added.

Khan was also instrumental in setting up the country's first free of cost blood bank, and a cardiac surgery centre at Karachi's state-run Civil Hospital, later renamed to Dr Ruth Pfau Hospital.

An expatriate Pakistani donated the land to Khan and his friends, who with the assistance of local philanthropists finally established the hospital in 2007.

Erdogan Trust

With an annual budget of $130 million, presently, the main hospital has a 300-bed capacity, which includes an 85-bed child cancer centre — the largest charity facility of its kind in Pakistan.

Over 90 per cent of the hospital budget is met through donations from local individuals, businesses and the corporate community.

The chain comprises 12 hospitals, of which four are directly under the control of Indus Hospital, whereas another eight are operating under public-private partnership.

Of these hospitals, five in Lahore, and one each in Multan and Muzaffargarh have been established by a trust, named after the Turkish president.

The 400-bed Recep Tayyip Erdogan Hospital Trust in the Muzaffargarh district, located some 380 kilometres (236 miles) from Lahore, was gifted by Turkey to Pakistan in 2014.

The hospital provides free healthcare to all patients, irrespective of their background.

“We are operating all these hospitals in coordination with the Turkish Health Ministry", said Khan, who supervises a workforce of 10,000 people, who maintain 12 hospitals.

The hospital chain is also running an outreach programme through small clinics, to provide primary health facilities, in 24 remote districts of the country.

The hospital is also pursuing an aggressive expansion plan to raise bed capacity to 1000, which requires an amount of $500 million.

The expansion plan also includes the setting up of a medical university to produce quality medical graduates.