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Dr. S. Tipu Sultan

By Syed M. Aslam
Nov 05 - 11, 2001

Dr. Tipu Sultan is the Honorary President of Pakistan Medical Association. He seems to take pride in his humble beginnings he lived in and completed his early education in Lyari, one of Karachi's oldest locality and its most neglected and deprived still. He did his schooling at his father's school Ghazi Mohammad Bin Qasim, which today is also a college. In 1967-68 he did his MBBS from Dow Medical College and proceeded to the UK three years later where he earned Diploma in Anaesthesia (DA). In 1976, he became a Fellow of Faculty of Anaesthesia of Royal College of Surgeons (FFARCS). He stayed in the UK for seven years and returned to Karachi in 1977 where he joined Civil Hospital, with which he remains associated till today. Today, he is a professor and the Head of the Department of Anaesthesia as well as the Surgical Intensive Care Unit.

PAGE: Would you like to comment on concerns about Antharax attacks here in Pakistan?

Dr. Tipu Sultan: Anthrax as a disease has been around for hundreds of years, particularly in Asia, Africa and many parts of the US. It is basically a cattle-related disease which is non-contagious: in its natural form it can not be transferred from animals to humans or from humans to humans. This is why human beings over the centuries have remained immune to the disease in its natural form despite living in close proximity with the cattle and close contacts with their skin and hair, the major source of disease. However, the anthrax now making rounds in envelopes is an engineered weapons-grade bacteria which is deadly only if not urgently treated after the exposure.

PAGE: Can the anthrax be developed in a Third-World country?

Dr. Tipu Sultan: Countries in the Third-World neither has the technology nor the resources to manufacture the type of weapons-grade anthrax which requires highly technical process and immense funds. Only the developed countries have the means and resources to manufacture weapons-grade deadly anthrax bacteria. While there are three kinds of anthrax lung, skin and intestines it is the only first which can be deadly and that too only if inhaled in a sizeable quantity. Inhaling of over 8,000 spores, cells produced by the bacteria, is deadly and anything less is not so dangerous. On an average just about 20-30 per cent of the people can be exposed to this lethal amount meaning that even in case of 'real' anthrax attacks a good 70 per cent of the attacks are not lethal.

PAGE: Are there any medicines available here to treat anthrax?

Dr Tipu Sultan: Yes, a range of anthrax medicines is easily available at affordable prices. They are manufactured both by the multinationals as well as the local pharmaceutical companies and are both curative and preventive. The names of these medicines are: Amoxicillin, Doxycycline, Ciprosloxacine, Ofloxacin, Levofloxacin and Penicillin G.

PAGE: What are the symptoms of anthrax?

Dr Tipu Sultan: Cough and cold plus a chest infection are the initial symptoms followed by fever and difficulty in breathing. One should consult a good physician if one suspects that he was exposed to anthrax bacteria.

PAGE: Tell us more about the Surgical ICU unit at the Civil Hospital?

Dr Tipu Sultan: The unit was established in 1991 when funds of Rs 15 million were collected within just one year. The unit provides free-of-cost surgery-related services, both pre and post, to severely ill patients. Needless to say, such treatment is prohibitively expensive by any standard costing an average of Rs 20,000 per day per patient. It has the privilege to treat patients referred by every government and private hospitals in the city, including such renowned hospital as Aga Khan. A big percentage of our patients include those who cannot afford such highly expensive treatment and also those who go bankrupt paying for the medical expenses. We have state-of-the art equipment including 7 ventilators each of which cost Rs 1.2 million each. The 8-bed unit is a classical example of public and government partnership the entire funds for which come from philanthropists and provides the best services which are at par with the best hospital in the private sector. The doctors and paramedical staff are government servants while drugs and medicines are all sponsored to help keep the expenses at the lowest level. There are 3 senior doctors, 4 junior doctors, 22 paramedics and a staff of four in reception.

PAGE: Are you satisfied with the performance of the private medical colleges?

Dr Tipu Sultan: No, they are just a front for minting money and are creating a surplus of sub-standard doctors. They are producing 'quacks with degrees' to further aggravate an already bad job situation for some 6,000 doctors produced in the country each year by the recognized institutions. This also poses a serious threat to the public health. The government should close all unrecognized medical colleges, both government and private, to stop the mushroom growth of institutes which severely lacks qualified faculty, purpose-built premises,