The First Pacemaker Bank in Pakistan
Pacemakers as Peacemakers:
A Project of APCNA, Rotary Club of Pakistan and Heartbeat International.
The health care for impoverished people in Pakistan is very limited as the simple and basic health care needs are scarcely met in the public sector. The care for cardiac patients is even more difficult and simply not affordable for the poor and indigent. There are hundreds of patients who need permanent pacemakers but cannot get it and will die because they cannot afford it. It was noted that even the big pubic cardiac institution had only 10 working temporary pacemakers for the entire patient population they served. Patients had to wait for weeks to have permanent pacemakers implanted. It is commendable that there are many cardiologists who are trying to provide to these patients free services and obtain pacemakers from various philanthropic resources. There was a dire need to provide these patients professional and financial assistance to make pacemaker available for them. Imagine a deserving patient in Pakistan who can now get a Permanent Pacemaker and Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator at no cost to the patient! This will soon be a reality.
APCNA’s Collaborative Efforts:
When APCNA members learned about such need in Pakistan, there was a palpable passion among the members to make a difference in lives of these patients. In March 2005, at the ACC Annual Scientific Sessions in Atlanta the APCNA team headed by Dr. Wajid Baig met Mr. Wil Mick, the President of Heartbeat International; a non-profit organization based in Tampa, Florida, the world’s premier provider of free, cardiac pacemakers, implantable defibrillators and medical care to needy patients around the world. For more than 20 years, they have served the indigent and ill in more than 30 countries, reaching families and hearts around the world. Unfortunately, there was no such pacemaker bank in Pakistan. It was APCNA’s initiative to approach Heartbeat International for establishing the pacemaker bank in Pakistan. It was apparent that the task was monumental, as according to the Heartbeat International, the Pacemaker Banks must adhere to strict operating principles and must comprise of qualified and experienced physicians, an appropriately equipped and staffed hospital, and a local Rotary club or approved Social Agency. APCNA needed to have partners who could facilitate this task become a reality. Fortunately, we had a good team of dedicated doctors, Dr. Bashir Hanif, Azam Shafqat and Dr. Zahid Jamal in Pakistan who were enthusiastic to provide such professional services. The Rotary Club of Pakistan provided us the needed support and the local institutions; Tabba Heart Institute and National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) opened their doors wholeheartedly for this worthy cause. The things then fell into place and, as they say… the rest is history.
The First Pacemaker Bank in Pakistan:
Although the journey towards this goal had been long and arduous, it is now coming to its remarkable end. This journey of setting up the First Pacemaker Bank in Pakistan may be ending, but the hard task of running this project is just starting. Our partners in this project are The Rotarians. We are confident that they are more than capable in running the Pacemaker Bank proficiently. We hope that waiting for a permanent pacemaker will now be one less problem for the doctors and patients to face.
The way we envision the Pacemaker Bank to operate is as follows. If there is a deserving patient anywhere in the city who needs a Pacemaker and cannot afford it, one of the medical directors shall first document the appropriate medical indication for the permanent pacemaker. Then there will be a screening process by trained social workers who will process the request. If they verify that the patient falls within the category of “deserving” then one of the three implanting Cardiologists (Drs. Bashir Hanif, Zahid Jamal and Azam Shafqat) will be asked to schedule the implant. Initially we have designated Tabba Heart Institute and the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) as the two implant sites. The record keeping will be stringent following the guidelines set forth by the Heartbeat International.
It our hope, that the First Pacemaker Bank will become the model which will then be used to set up similar Pacemaker Banks in different parts of the Country. There are no restrictions as to where these Banks can be set up; provided that there are dedicated Rotarians and Physicians who are willing to follow the strict guidelines as dictated by the Heartbeat International.
The Special Note of Thanks:
On behalf of APCNA and its members, we are extremely grateful to Mr. Wil Mick and Dr. Meniscalco from Heartbeat International who have guided us all through this process. We now have the help of Mr. Ashraf Hasnain, International Director of Heartbeat International. He has had several meetings with the organizers in Karachi and continues to help us. None of this could have happened without the hard work and dedication of Rotarian Ovais Kohari and his team.
None of us are naïve enough to think that this one project will change everything for the patients in Pakistan. This is only a very small attempt to help these patients. It will take many more such projects to make a significant difference. We are proud that APCNA is making a start.
The Inauguration and Fundraising for the Pacemaker Bank is scheduled for Wednesday, December 18th. 2007 at the Tabba Heart Institute, Karachi, Pakistan. We invite all of you to attend and support this project. Please visit our website and learn more about APCNA (www.apcna.net) and its projects and how you can help us.
Wajid Baig MD FACC
Members: APCNA-Rotary Pacemaker Bank Project
Javed Suleman, MD, FACC,
Immad Sadiq, MD, FACC,
Asif Rehman, MD, FACC,
Dr. Wamique Yusuf, MD FACC