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Pakistan’s first boat clinic treats people for free in Punjab

Indus Hospital lifeboat targets 105,000 poor migrants in Bhong

SAMAA | - Posted: Nov 13, 2020 | Last Updated: 11 months ago
Posted: Nov 13, 2020 | Last Updated: 11 months ago

Photo: Indus Health Network

The Indus Hospital has launched Pakistan’s first-ever boat clinic in southern Punjab’s Bhong. 

The floating facility will provide medical services to a community of 105,000 people living along the banks of the Indus River in that area. The residents are the poorest of the poor migrants who are almost entirely cut off from the rest of the world.

“The people there hadn’t seen a doctor in decades,” said Indus Health Network’s Global Health Directorate Executive Director Saira Khowaja, as she described the living conditions they saw on their community visit. 

There are no medical facilities nearby. The two closest to the settlement are one hour and one and a half hours away, said Khowaja. 

The boat clinic will provide primary care to the community for free. It is also a lab collection point and medicine dispensary. Soon immunisation and mental health services will also be integrated. 

Some vaccines are already being offered because the children living here had never received immunisation. People have slowly started bringing their children to the clinic to get immunised.

All treatment is provided under one umbrella, explained the executive director. We’re also working on public health awareness here, she said. 

The clinic has three docking points. At each docking point, patients will be registered, screened, and have their vitals checked before seeing a doctor, says the Indus Health Network. 

Photo: Indus Health Network

Boats will go daily to the community and come back to land to be equipped for the next day. The Boat Clinic’s services aren’t available at night as the doctors onboard need to return to their homes which are often a few hours away from the launch site. 

We start early in the morning and work according to the day’s schedule, said Khowaja. 

Aboard the clinic are medical professionals including doctors, midwives, technicians, phlebotomists (health workers trained to draw blood) and even members of the community.

“We want community involvement,” said Khowaja, “The patient is an important stakeholder.”  

She told SAMAA Digital that the community had been welcoming and trusting so far. Indus was working on recruiting more female health workers for the medical care of the women there. 

We plan to have eight docking points by the end of the year, said Khowaja, elaborating on future plans for the initiative. More medical services such as family planning, tuberculosis care, hepatitis treatments and a nutrition programme are also in the pipeline.

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