ICMC Inaugurates a New COVID-19 Hospital Ward in Pakistan

On 6 April 2021, ICMC inaugurated a new hospital ward equipped with Intensive Care and High Dependency units in northwestern Pakistan. The ward will support the Government of Pakistan’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new services are accessible to Pakistani nationals and the region’s large refugee population alike.

ICMC Inaugurates a New COVID-19 Hospital Ward in Pakistan
The new ward began admitting patients suffering from COVID-19 immediately after the opening ceremony, and was working at full capacity within 18 hours of its inauguration. Photo: ICMC’s medical staff attending the launch ceremony.

The International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), along with its partner Humanity and Inclusion, has inaugurated a new ward to treat COVID-19 patients in the district of Buner, Pakistan.

ICMC renovated a section of the government-run Buner Hospital to meet the World Health Organization’s global standards. The new ward includes a High Dependency Unit equipped with 14 beds with central oxygen supplies, electromedical equipment, a portable X-ray machine, and a laboratory. Its new Intensive Care Unit has four beds dedicated to critically ill COVID-19 patients.  ICMC will also train the hospital staff to run the new ward for COVID-19 response during the pandemic, and for surgical, medical and critical gynecological cases in the future.

 “Creating a state-of-the-art intensive care facility in a peripheral district, where basic healthcare services were considered impossible to achieve, was certainly a challenge,” said Dr. Syed Rizwan Ali, ICMC’s Advisor Health and Nutrition, who supervised the implementation of the project. “The new ward proves that its by remaining engaged for equality, it is possible to make dreams come true.”

ICMC coordinated the establishment of the new units with Pakistan’s provincial and district health authorities and the Ministry of Health. Approximately forty ICMC staff members work in the ward, including a respiratory system specialist, an anesthetist, a biomedical engineer, a lab technician, and medical officers and nurses specialized in intensive care.

Several government representatives took part in the inauguration, including Mr. Syed Fakhr Jihan Bacha, member of the provincial assembly of Buner and deputy commissioner Nasrullah Khan Yousafzai.

Buner district is located in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which borders Afghanistan. The province hosts over half of Pakistan’s nearly 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees. Due to its remote location and a shortage of funds, the region’s government hospitals did not offer any such specialized services to its nearly 900,000 residents before the inauguration of the new ward. Patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms had to be transferred to Peshawar, the province’s capital, some 150 km away. 

The opening of the new ward comes as Pakistan faces its third wave of coronavirus infections. The wave has led to a surge in coronavirus cases and an overflow of many government hospitals in recent weeks. On 29 March, the government announced a temporary closure of schools in several districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Buner, in an attempt to control the spread of the virus.  The new ward began admitting patients suffering from COVID-19 immediately after the opening ceremony, and was working at full capacity within 18 hours of its inauguration.

 “These new units will allow refugees, the host community, and the population of adjacent districts to access comprehensive specialized care at their doorstep. The area’s poor and marginalized population, who already struggles to get by, will no longer suffer the financial burden and time expense of carrying their loved ones to big cities. Having these services close to home is a basic human right with the potential of saving many lives,” said Dr. Rizwan Ali.

ICMC provides healthcare to underserved communities in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since January 2017. It operates medical clinics in 11 refugee camps, where it is the sole healthcare provider. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, ICMC has also redoubled its awareness-raising and prevention efforts in refugee camps and has provided sanitary kits to the area’s refugee communities.

The new ward is part of the COVID-19 Pakistan Preparedness and Response Plan, which outlines international assistance to the Government of Pakistan to address the pandemic, in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, the National Disaster Management Authority and the Provincial Departments of Health. It is prepared with the support of the UN and is guided by the World Health Organization’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.

The new hospital ward is funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations’ COVID-19 response program.

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