Dr. Syed Tabassum Jafri
Dr. Syed Tabassum Jafri did his MBBS from Sindh
Medical College thirteen years ago. Besides working as medical officer
at Qatar Hospital, a public sector in- and out-patient health facility
funded and administered by the provincial government of Sindh, in
low-income locality of Orangi he also devotes long hours in the evening
to a charitable clinic. The clinic, one of many run by Al-Khidmat, a
Karachi-based nationwide charitable association, provides out-patient
service at affordable prices in middle-income area of North Karachi. He
is also secretary of Karachi Chapter of Pakistan Islamic Medical
Association (PIMA), a nationwide association which works to achieve two
primary objectives. Number one, to upgrade professional activities of
medical practitioners and number two, to inculcate Islamic ethics of
care which medical profession demands.
By Syed M. Aslam
Sep 03 - 09, 2001
PAGE: You spend long hours at the charitable
clinic, some time sitting as late as 1 am, unlike rest of the private
clinics which close much earlier in the same locality. Don't you feel
inclined at times to start your own practice, like majority of your
peers, to reap much better financial reward which it offers?
Dr Tabassum: No. I am content with what I am
doing primarily because of my faith that I will be provided with the
sustenance that Almighty Allah has written for me. It was not a random
choice but rather a planned one, and by the Grace of Allah I succeeded.
I am happy to work for an organization whose sole outlook on life is not
the worldly financial returns but rather service to humanity.
PAGE: How many patients do you see every night?
Dr Tabassum: On an average some 60-70 patients
come to the clinic every night. Sometimes there are as many as 100. We
charge Rs 20 for the visit plus medicines given by us for the adults and
Rs 15 for children. I feel that the practice gives me the sense of
professional satisfaction and personal well-being which no amount of
money can purchase. It's nice to be a part of something which feels so
PAGE: How PIMA achieves the two primary objectives?
Dr Tabassum: We upgrade the professional
activities and knowledge of doctors by organizing seminars on various
topics related to the profession. We also publish a magazine which deals
with real problems and their possible solutions, for doctors in
particular and people in general. We also organize Quraan reading once a
week which is open to anyone to help one gain enough knowledge of Arabic
to better understand the timeless message of the Holy Book.
PAGE: You interact with a large number of patients
everyday? What you feel are the basic health problems?
Dr Tabassum: Public health service should have
been the top priority of the government — any government. This is also
the Islamic perspective which lays a heavy stress on service to
humanity, particularly the sick and the suffering. Unfortunately,
however, health has never been accorded the importance which it deserves
by all the governments which allocated only negligible portion of
budgets to what is the top most important sector.
PAGE: What could be done?
Dr Tabassum: I feel that the neglect on the
part of the successive governments to keep doctors at least fairly paid
in the public sector health related facilities; be it a hospital, clinic
or basic health centre, is one of the major cause of declining health
services. Keeping doctors officially under-paid has resulted
indifference on the part of the doctors thus forcing them to establish
their own private practices to charge highly excessive fees and too at
will. This has also encouraged doctors to work at several hospitals or
clinics everyday thus being not able to devote a quality time to their
professional activities. Needless to say the ultimate victim of this is
PAGE: So doctors in the public sector should be
accorded a better remuneration?
Dr Tabassum: Yes. The doctors working in the
public health sector, and for that matter also in the private sector,
should be well paid to divert their attention fully to their primary
responsibility of providing the first class health care and attention.
This would be in line with the Hippocratic oath and the Islamic
perspective of health, welfare and caring.
PAGE: What about the role of the health facilities in
the private sector?
Dr Tabassum: They are helping to fill in the
huge vacuum which the public health sector is unable to fill for the
reasons mentioned above. They are certainly filling the great demand
which the public sector is unable to meet due to restricted funds,
inadequate services, unethical attitude and by and large an all
frightening indifference. Having said that, however, it is also
imperative that the government should come up with a check-and-balance
measures to ensure that patients get the value for their money at the
private health care facilities. They should not be allowed to charge at
will for services which at majority of times don't match the exorbitant
fees they charge.