Only the most heartless of misanthropes wouldn’t have appreciated the establishment of a cancer hospital in Peshawar. The few who did would have been rubbished by those around them. “How much do you really hate the PTI to have anything but praise to express on this particular issue?”
Cancer, as the title of the 2011 Pulitzer-prize winning book on the disease says, is the “Emperor of All Maladies.” A disease that can reduce the most affluent of us to helplessness. And can inspire the most hellish of despondencies in those lower on the socio-economic ladder.
For them, a well-functioning cancer hospital, one that is free for those who can’t afford it, would be nothing short of a miracle. For the people of not just Peshawar but the whole of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; patients need not go all the way to Lahore but be treated here.
But, a distinction needs to be made between the two branches of Shaukat Khanum hospital. The first was the philanthropic, personal initiative of fund-raising by a national hero. The second is exactly the same, but with a stark caveat. That national hero now runs the government of the province in question. And health is a provincial subject.
The hospital would have required effort to construct. Why did the leader of the party in power undertake all that effort for a private hospital?
Media coverage of the inauguration was also of the tone that seemed to imply a bit of progress by the Khattak administration. The KP government had nothing to do with it, apart from the plot of land that the Ameer Haider Hoti government had allotted the hospital.
Is the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa going to be judged by this private hospital or by the state of affairs at the BHUs in Bannu or even the state of affairs in Peshawar’s busiest Lady Reading Hospital?
The province’s health policy, it is reported, is being dictated by Dr Nausherwan Burki, Imran Khan’s US-based cousin. The province’s doctors’ associations are up in arms against the impractical, ill-thought out health policies. The health minister, the man who should, in principle, be running this show, doesn’t do more than visit hospitals and ask staff to wear proper uniforms. This year, doctors at Lady Reading – otherwise a tireless bunch who, during the darkest days of terror, always remained on-call at a hospital that was always in a state of emergency – actually went on strike. While the minister was sluggish in resolving the issue, it was the patients who suffered.
Running a government is tough. Fixing, say, the health sector, requires a lot of serious study, empathy, drive and the ability to eke out a consensus amongst the various players in a complex matrix. It requires tough decision making and an eye on the bigger picture.
Water-borne diseased kill more people than cancer. The lack of affordable and accurate medical diagnostics is a greater malady than cancer. But nothing succeeds like success. Imran Khan has built a private hospital through fund-raising in the past and that is what he will do now.
If all you have is a hammer, then all problems will look like nails.