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KARACHI, Feb 6: Terming the overall situation related to the availability of anaesthesiologists in Saarc countries a “depressing one”, experts at a seminar held here stressed the need for provision of more anaesthetic services, teaching and research facilities in the member countries.

The seminar on ‘Manpower in anaesthesiology — present situation and steps to take’ organised on Friday at a local hotel was part of the four-day 8th Congress of Saarc Association of Anaesthesiologists.

The Pakistan Society of Anaesthesiologists organised the congress which was inaugurated by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah on Thursday.

Dr M. Khalil-ur-Rehman, the keynote speaker from Bangladesh, said in his address at the seminar that the number of anaesthesiologists in his country was far below the standard.

However he personally felt that some recent decisions of the government regarding the creation of 1,800 posts for qualified anaesthesiologists across the country would help change the situation in the coming years.

He said that like other parts of the region, a limited number of medical students were attracted to this field as it was considered to be less attractive in term of remuneration and social position because an anaesthesiologist also could not work independently.

He said that efforts should be made to attract young doctors to this field by holding seminars and conferences and improving working environment and reducing their job risks.

He said that quick promotions and allowing reasonable private practice and international exposure would help improve the situation. He stressed the need for providing more incentives to anaesthesiologists.

After Dr Khalil’s address a panel discussion was held.

The panel observed that things were improving as far as the recruitment of qualified anaesthesiologists was concerned in Saarc member countries, like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

However, no report was available about India as its delegation did not attend the congress in Pakistan.

Nepal had 120 anaesthesiologists for 27 million people, with 20 medical colleges as the government lacked training facilities for anaesthesiologists and was dependent on the anaesthesiologists’ association, the audience was told.

The country is producing about 20-22 anaesthesiologists annually.

In Pakistan, it was said, there was one qualified anaesthesiologist for 250,000 people and most of the specialists were based in urban health centres of the country.

There were about 1,700 anaesthesiologists, mostly belonging to the army, who could be divided into two cadres — those who got four-year training and those who were trained under short diploma programmes, the audience was told.

In Sri Lanka, MBBS doctors were being trained for anaesthesiology under the supervision of senior consultants, in addition to being sent abroad.

There was one anaesthesiologist for 100,000 people in Sri Lanka, the audience was informed.

The situation of trained manpower was not improving in the region as governments were finding it difficult to retain anaesthesiologists while the associations of anaesthesiologists was also insisting that medical nurses should not be asked to give anaesthesia to patients as a qualified anaesthesiologist was required for the task.

Those who spoke at the panel discussion included Dr Tipu Sultan and Dr Fauzia A. Khan from Pakistan, Dr Nizamuddin and Dr Khalil from Bangladesh, Gautum R. Bajracharya from Nepal and Anuja Abayadeera and Warnakulasuriya from Sri Lanka.

The discussion concluded on remarks of a Bangladeshi speaker who said that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Anaesthesiologists Association (SAARCAA) should go for a true audit and report on the development of relevant manpower, which should be presented on the occasion of the association’s next congress.