The contentment you get from social work cannot match anything you do for yourself, says Dr Faisal Ikram, a general surgeon at Mediclinic, who volunteers at Pakistan Medical Centre (PMC) in his free time.
PMC is the first and the only not-for-profit medical centre in the UAE, and has been in operation for more than ten months. The story behind its formation is interesting. Dr Ikram said: “Pakistan Association Dubai began hosting free medical camps in 2009 on the last Friday of each month. A few doctors would volunteer and provide consultation and medical advisory services to people. However, we realised that meeting just once a month was not enough. People needed support for their medical procedures and medication too — you can give advice to a diabetic, but if he doesn’t take medicines, or doesn’t have access to medicines, there’s no point in that advice. So, we started providing free medicines, mainly to diabetics, hypertensives, cardiac patients.
“The community came forward to support us, including players from the pharmaceutical industry who provided us with products at a very low cost or zero profit. Gradually we increased our scope of consultations, and included diagnostic tests, lab investigations, imaging, etc. We tied up with laboratories and diagnostic centers where patients could get a CT scan for just Dh100. It allowed the needy to get medical care and the support they needed. As we went on, we felt a need to have a permanent clinic where we can see people on a daily basis not just once a month. That’s when we approached the authorities, who made provisions in the law to suit our request, and eventually allowed us to open doors of this medical centre in October 2020,” says Dr Ikram.
PAD is the only social association in Dubai to be given the license to do health activities after provisions were made in the law. “The Dubai Health Authority and Community Development Authority have been very helpful and instrumental in realising this dream,” adds Dr Ikram.
The success of this model could have a significant impact on the healthspace in the UAE, encouraging other communities to also do the same. “This model embodies the true spirit of inclusivity and tolerance where one community has opened doors to everyone. It is a platform where people with different skill-sets, young doctors, and corporates from any background can come and volunteer for community service, and anyone can benefit from the facility. The whole idea is to make this pilot project a success. It is still early days, but I believe that once we have matured, consolidated all our efforts, there’s no reason why it cannot be replicated in other communities.”
Serving with a smile
Pakistan Medical Centre, which is inside the premises of Pakistan Association Dubai, has seen about 7,500 patients from 35 nationalities. “Anyone who walks in and declares that he or she cannot pay, gets free medical care. For others, it is a highly-subsidised model,” says says Dr Faisal Ikram, a general surgeon at Mediclinic. “You cannot get the same quality healthcare elsewhere at the same price. What we really strive for is to match the quality at any best clinic in town. We have the best doctors who volunteer for us. We have paid staff like GP, dentists, physiotherapist, optometrists, radiographers, who are our permanent staff. And then, there are consultants and specialist doctors like me who work as volunteers. This is how we create a hybrid model where we have provided a platform for skilled volunteering.”
Dr Ikram lauds the support the government of the UAE has always supported to people. “They encourage people to come forward and volunteer, which I think is a blessing. You have the local authorities who support you in multiple ways. The opportunities are there, people should come forward. They should find ways to give back to the community.” The Pakistan Medical Centre has state of the art infrastructure, equipment and talent to cater to varied medical needs. Its indoor courts, billiards table and gymnasium are available to use on subscription basis and have evolved as a popular channel for individuals looking to support the not-for-profit medical centre while also bond with fellow community members.