LAHORE: The Punjab government’s recently notified high-profile committee of 35 senior cancer specialists from all over the province has expanded the scope of work and engaged senior oncologists from the USA, UK and other countries for establishing the first public 450-bed cancer hospital in Lahore with initial estimated cost of Rs35bn.

It is said to be the first committee, containing the maximum number of specialists (oncologists), formed for setting up the hospital. They have been taken from public and private hospitals of Punjab, including Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital Lahore.

Prominent among them include Prof Ijaz Masood from the Nishtar Medical University Multan, Dr Rab Nawaz Maikan, Dr Zeeshan, Dr Nauman from the Institute of Nuclear Medicine & Oncology Lahore (INMOL), Dr Arif Jamshed, Dr Najma from the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, Dr Amjad Zafar from the Allama Iqbal Medical College Lahore, Lt Col Mehreen Ali Khan from the CMH Rawalpindi, Dr Tariq Maqsood from the Armed Forces Bone Marrow Transplant Institute Rawalpindi, Prof Dr Waseem Hayat Khan from the Cancer Care Hospital Manawan, Lahore, Prof Khalid Bashir from the National Hospital Lahore and Prof Mona Aziz from the Shaikh Zayed Hospital Lahore.

“In continuation of the department’s notification, the competent authority has been pleased to co-opt the oncologists/experts from public and private sector for seeking opinion/input on the draft feasibility report prepared by the committee,” reads the notification.

35 specialists already working on first cancer hospital in public sector

It states that the experts shall consider the terms of references while reviewing the draft as per their titled specialties.

Speaking to Dawn, many oncologists said that initially it would be a 450-bed cancer hospital that would house multiple departments at Valencia Housing Society Lahore. They said that according to a recent report of the World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly 118,631 people had lost their lives to different types of cancer during 2022 in Pakistan and they included 58 934 men and 59 697 women.

In Pakistan, the risk of developing cancer before turning 75 was calculated to be 11pc while the risk of dying from cancer by the same age was found to be 7.6pc. The top five types of cancer among Pakistani women were found to be breast, lip oral cavity, ovary, cervix uteri and oesophagus. The top five cancers among men were lip oral cavity, lung, colorectum, prostate and oesophagus. Breast cancer was the leading cause of death (15,522 – 18.6pc) followed by oral cancer (10,181– 5.9pc) and lung cancer (8,307 – 5.3pc) in the country in 2022.

During the previous government of the PTI in Punjab, the then health minister Prof Dr Yasmin Rashid had announced construction of a new cancer hospital at a newly proposed teaching institute, namely the Lahore General Hospital II near Arfa Karim Tower along Ferozepur Road.

Earlier, during his last tenure in Punjab as chief minister, Shehbaz Sharif had also made claims regarding establishment of a new 200-bed cancer hospital near the PKLI in DHA Lahore. However, successive governments abandoned the plans due to certain reasons, one of them requirement of huge funds for the highly expensive treatment and purchase of medical and surgical equipment.

The experts said Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz came up with the new project and she seemed to be serious in materialising it as was evident from the formation of multiple sub-committees of health and medical experts from various specialities.

It was the 4th meeting of the abovementioned 35-member committee and the first one in which the expat Pakistani oncologists were also engaged through a video link conference on Saturday night.

An official said that currently there were hardly a few oncology units in the major teaching hospitals of Punjab, including a department at the Mayo Hospital Lahore, which was not fully functional. He said the Nishtar Hospital Multan was the only institute in the province, housing the largest facility for the cancer patients. Established by the senior oncologist of the Nishtar Medical University Prof Dr Ijaz Masood, the centre was catering to the needs of the cancer patients coming from the south Punjab and other parts of the province.

During the committee’s meeting, the official said, the Pakistani oncologists briefed Pakistani expat cancer specialists about the initiative of CM Maryam Nawaz, saying she had allocated around 300 kanal land at the Valencia Housing Society of Lahore for the 450-bed hospital.

They were further briefed about the ToRs to review the draft feasibility report and were asked to provide input while reviewing the scope and draft design prepared by IDAP of services linked with the specialty concerned and proposed capacity (beds/ service delivery space) for the specialty, keeping in view the estimated burden of disease and the given bed strength of the hospital in the initial phase.

In light of the increased patient load, the opinion on the future expansion of the specialty/supra-specialty would also be solidified by the committee.

The committee shall review the list of equipment keeping in view the diagnostic/ curative/ rehabilitative services to be offered by the specialty and it shall ascertain the areas of potential linkages with the other specialties for improved service delivery and patient experience.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2024

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