As we leave behind an extraordinary and very difficult year, all of us at the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust (SKMT) would like to thank the Pakistani people for their extraordinary toughness, compassion and generosity. The Pakistani nation’s support for the national goal of Shaukat Khanum means that we can fight on two fronts this year, as we fight cancer and the coronavirus. More than ever, in 2020, your support ensures that SKMT continues to be a beacon of hope amidst the gloom of the COVID-19 pandemic, for those with cancer. I would like to take this opportunity to review this year and tell you about our plans for the future.
As Pakistan witnessed the first wave of the pandemic, we took a number of measures in all areas of our hospital, in accordance with international guidelines and best practices, to ensure a safe environment for everyone in our facilities. These measures include confining patient attendants and visitors, screening all staff before entering clinical areas, enforcing social distancing, adhering to strict disinfection protocols, and using all appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) as recommended by the World Health Organization. We do not let our guard down at any time, and continue to ensure that we are prepared to provide a safe environment for our patients and staff. The steps we have taken to limit staff interactions, for example rotating vulnerable employees to non-clinical areas or allowing them to work from home, have played a role in reducing staff infection rates.
Given our reliance on Zakat and donations, and with the expected huge reduction in clinical activity, we are naturally concerned about the possible reduction in our income, which provides free cancer treatment to the needy. We make a special appeal to all our supporters who are generous and humbled by the responses received in the form of Zakat and donations. We are truly grateful for the continued support of our donors, which is more important to us than ever before, given the unprecedented times we have all gone through, as we grapple with the many devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that is ongoing.
The Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust has always been a forward-looking organization, and we have strong eyes on the future. We have started construction work on our third and largest cancer hospital in Karachi, and surgical oncology services will begin at SKMCH & RC, Peshawar, in April 2021, marking the completion of Phase III of the hospital’s construction. Work will also begin, God willing, on a new clinical building in Lahore, in September 2021.
The new hospital in Karachi will be Pakistan’s largest tertiary cancer treatment center, with state-of-the-art cancer diagnosis and treatment facilities, all available under one roof. SKMCH & RC, Karachi, will serve all Sindh, as well as South Baluchistan, and will help bring cancer care closer to our patients. SKMCH & RC in Karachi, with an area of one million square feet, will be twice the size of a hospital in Lahore, and will have forty-seven outpatient examination rooms, a sixty-nine-bed chemotherapy facility, two hundred and eighty-eight inpatient beds. inpatients, sixteen operating theaters, and twenty-four intensive care beds.
For 2021, we need Rs. 19 billion to support not only our two state-of-the-art cancer centers but to continue building a hospital in Karachi, to commence construction of a clinical building in Lahore and to continue to ensure that the latest technology is used in providing cancer care in all of our facilities. As in previous years, we expect about half of it to be fulfilled through your generous donations and zakat.
Finally, as you know, we are in the midst of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, and each of us has an important role to play in ensuring that we succeed in continuing the fight against cancer and the coronavirus. We cannot relax at this point, but if we continue to show the same determination that we had throughout the previous year, I am sure we will become a stronger nation and that Shaukat Khanum will continue to be Pakistan’s stronghold against cancer.
The author is the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Executive Officer, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust.
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