Koohi Goth Hospital, a ray of hope for women with obstetric fistula

Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2012.

KARACHI: Koohi Goth Hospital is tucked away in a small colony of Bin Qasim Town. It has been almost 10 years since it was set up by Dr Shershah Syed – a renowned gynecologist – at his family’s land. Since then it has been giving free treatment to women suffering from obstetric fistula, a condition Dr Syed refers to as a poor man’s disease. “Usually only the poorest of the poor get it.”

The condition develops when a passageway is formed between the bladder and the vagina or the rectum and the vagina. It is caused by inadequate medical care given to women during labour or childbirth. It also results when young girls whose bodies have not yet been fully formed give birth.

Now, Koohi hospital is one of the few large and well-equipped facilities in Pakistan which specialize in treating obstetric fistula and detaching women from the stigma which the condition carries with it.

The hospital boasts to treat more than a 1,000 patients out of the about 6,000 cases which are reported in the country. Dr Syed says that this condition remains one of the most under-reported and hushed-up health problems of women. A lot of women with this condition lose bladder control and are disturbed by the odour that emanates from them.

Patients come to the hospital from areas where even basic health facilities are hard to find, such as, Badin, Quetta, Peshawar and Thari Mirwah. Besides treatment, Koohi hospital also has a rehabilitation centre for its patients who are often admitted the hospital for months.

In 2006, the hospital was upgraded to include a general ward and also provides routine and emergency obstetrical care.

The main aim of the hospital is to become a teaching facility. “We don’t want to become a medical college which has of late become a lucrative business,” says Dr Syed. “We want to teach in areas where training is lacking, such as nursing, paramedics, technicians and midwives.”

The quest has inspired much more than just delivering healthcare. Koohi hospital’s Abu Zafar Institute of Medical Sciences headed by Dr Tipu Sultan, began training nurses, midwives and midwife tutors. So far the institute has also produced five 30-week batches of professional midwifery trainers.

Not only do the students learn and acquire a valuable skill, they also get stipends instead of paying a tuition fee and hostel accommodation on the premises. Now Dr Syed’s aim is to make Koohi a general hospital for all women’s problems, for which an expansion from 60 beds to 200 is already under progress.

Syed Irfan Qadri, the administrator, says that backbone of the hospital are the surgeons who voluntarily give up their weekly holidays to perform surgeries here and the silent financers. Collaborations from friends and supporters have led to cleft-lip and laparoscopic surgeries being performed at the hospital on a weekly basis. The hospital team also visits rural areas where fistulas are more common.

Koohi hospital also carries out research. Currently it is working to find out the domestic factors associated to asthma in children, according to the doctor in charge, Dr Suboohi Mehdi.

The hospital encourages all women suffering from gynecological problems to contact the hospital for free treatment at 0333-2107831.

The hospital’s initiatives have been recognised internationally as well by the United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nations Population Fund, International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Global Clinton Initiative, The Lancet and the BBC.

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