Developing Pakistan into a Social Welfare State
Recently I came across a child’s medical case that has been a mystery to many doctors of Pakistan. The male child was born with a rare condition where he was not able to pass his stool. When his parents realised that their child had some birth defect, sadly they abandoned the child who was then raised by his aunt. The aunt took this child to various doctors and hospitals but since no one quite understood the condition, they ended up making child’s state worse by misdiagnosis and mistreatment. The child is now 6-7 years old and probably suffering much more through wrong diagnosis and mistreatment than the condition’s own sufferings. And the worst case scenario is that, after going round the hoops, the child is still suffering and doctors of Pakistan still have not managed to work out what to do with him?
The child is suffering from a disease called Hirschsprung’s (HIRSH-sproongz) disease where some sensitive cells are missing in the muscles of baby’s colon. These nerve cells aid the movement of stools outside the body, but if they are missing then passing the stool is not as easy as it should be. This defect is present from birth and baby suffering from it cannot have normal bowl movement. Sometimes it is difficult to detect it at an early stage and only become apparent at a later in life. In babies the symptoms are: swollen belly, vomiting, including vomiting a green or brown substance, constipation or build-up of gas, which might make a new born fussy and diarrhoea. These symptoms can easily be overlooked as many new born go through such issues but in older children, signs and symptoms can be taken seriously as they continue to include: swollen belly, chronic constipation, gas, failure to thrive and fatigue.
Again, the symptoms are not alarmingly precarious and could be mistaken as due to many other illnesses therefore can easily be misdiagnosed which have happened in Mohammed’s case. If this disease was diagnosed correctly, the treatment is little straight forward. A competent surgeon would have to bypass the section of colon that has no nerve cells and attach it the end to the section of canal that had never cells. It’s more or less like, leaving out the affected area of the colon from the passage of stools.
Mohammed’s aunt is a poor lady; she didn’t have enough resources to get Mohammed seen by a doctor who was in position to treat Mohammed. One organisation that fully advocates for developing Pakistan into a Social Welfare State came to rescue the family and helped them to secure some financial funding from the Punjab Government. But money alone was not enough; there was need of a competent doctor who could treat the suffering child correctly. This issue of having competent professionals who can deal with extraordinarily different diseases plus the financial resourcing has crippled so many families in Pakistan.
My own personal experience with medical authorities in Pakistan has been similar. I have financial resources but still this is not enough. Due to lack of regulation, many hospitals are able to run without proper guidance and can treat patients as they wish. How do we know that what we are being told is correct? Whether we are being diagnosed correctly and then the medicines being given to us are in accordance with our medical history? Hospitals are being run as business prospects and all the patients are customers. People, who can afford, can go to better shops. There are many children who are in desperate pain and needing urgent attention and it doesn’t look good due to lack of financial and professional resources. Even if we can afford to go to best doctors, would they be able to deal with a disease that may be rare? Do most hospitals care for patients who show unusual disease and symptoms?
All these questions are very difficult to answer but what I think as a solution is working towards developing Pakistan into a Social Welfare State. A Social Welfare State is where the state takes the responsibility of people’s health matters along with all other issues such as education, housing etc. When state takes it upon itself to develop a system that will serve each and every individual of its country, things will progress. The movement needs the impetuous of public to demand their government to take up the initiative. When the government starts developing Pakistan as a Social Welfare State, every child, every elder person and each individual of this country will have the means to basic rights such as food, housing, education and health matters. It all will be regulated and monitored by the state so there will be little chance of mistreatment of people due to lack of financial support. State will also be responsible for providing their professional to gain higher experience through collaborative initiative so they become equipped to deal with issues that are out of the norm.
I have always been in favour of Social Welfare State, and after the personal experience I feel that we need to do a lot more to push forward this movement and get it right in place. This certain organisation that started the movement for Social Welfare State, did whatever possibly they could do to help Mohammed’s case but it fell short of professional competency of medical practitioners. If health profession was regulated by the state then may be Mohammed would have received a better treatment along with many others just like him. If state took responsibility of its each individual, Mohammed’s parents would never abandon their new born because they could not bear his health costs. If state took responsibility of its each individual, it would put in place experienced and competent health professional to deal with every kind of health matters so children like Mohammed would never suffer more than they had to. If state took the responsibility then people would not have to suffer alone and would have the support that will build the country into a strong coherent nation.
As things stand, Mohammed, the little child is still suffering from the pain and his aunt is waiting for any kind of support that will ease her nephew’s condition. His treatment has not been possible by any doctor or institute in Pakistan so the alternative would be to take Mohammed to neighbouring country to get him treated. This is of course another huge struggle that Mohammed’s family will need to go through to help their little soldier.
By Dr. Chand Zahid