About the Aga Khan University Hospitals' role in fighting COVID-19 in Pakistan
1) What did the leadership and experts at the Aga Khan University Hospital do before the outbreak of COVID-19 in Pakistan?
Our expert scientists and clinicians in public health, infectious diseases, emergency medicine, internal medicine, and family medicine began researching, studying, assessing and learning about the disease outbreak, first from China and then other countries as the disease spread there. This they used to prepare for the outbreak in Pakistan and make disease projections.
The hospital leadership, together with the academic and clinical experts, began proactively planning for the disease outbreak in Pakistan, collaborating with other leading international health organisations as well as sharing emerging knowledge and technical information with the Government Health Agencies in Pakistan.
2) What role did the Aga Khan University Hospital play when the first suspected case of COVID-19 surfaced?
- Our Clinical Laboratory Experts made the first PCR based testing kits for COVID-19 diagnosis available.
- We prepared and were ready to accept some of the first patients who tested positive for COVID-19.
- The Family Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Internal Medicine, and Infection Control Experts began putting previously prepared patient management protocols into action.
- Family Medicine doctor and nurse specialists were able to begin screening and testing patients who initially came to us.
- Procedures and processes were implemented to support very sick patients suspected of COVID-19 and who needed highly specialised care.
3) Has the Aga Khan University Hospital restarted screening and testing for COVID-19? Why was it halted?
The Aga Khan University Hospital has restarted both the services. Patients suspecting COVID-19 can call our Contact Centre at 021-111-911-911 to book a FREE tele-screening appointment. Based on the screening results, patients will be booked for testing, if needed. The price of the COVID-19 test is Rs. 6,900; welfare and zakat support is available for eligible patients. Free testing supported by the financial assistance provided by the European Union, is also available for deserving patients.
Earlier, the demand for screening and testing grew significantly within the first few weeks and our capacity to accept a large volume of patients became limited, especially with dwindling supplies. This began as a temporary closure, with plans to resume; however, the Government called for a lock-down and advised that patients should not attempt to go to hospitals for screening and testing in order to avoid more people from getting infected. During this time, to help allay COVID-19 concerns in the wider community, we launched our 24/7 COVID-19 Helpline whereby people who had concerns could get information and guidance from trained healthcare professionals.
We also began working on plans to offer FREE tele-screening, so patients could be screened without having to come to the hospital. Our new, dedicated testing site is also on the Main Campus on Stadium Road, but away from other clinics and services, so suspected COVID-19 patients can be tested with ease and convenience, with limited exposure risk to themselves and others. We have introduced home testing and drive-through testing at select locations across the country.
4) What is the Aga Khan University Hospital doing for COVID-19 patients now?
The Aga Khan University Hospital is screening, testing, admitting and caring for as many COVID-19 patients as safely possible, limited by beds, appropriate space, equipment, and supplies. In February 2021, AKUH also became the first private hospital in Karachi to offer COVID-19 vaccinations under the government's free vaccination programme. Tens of thousands of people have received their vaccinations, completely free of cost, at our Main Campus. We are also assisting the government to vaccinate the elderly or otherwise immobile people at home.
While doing so, we continue to offer services to patients who suffer from other serious and life-threatening medical conditions.
In such a pandemic, the volume of suspected and infected patients with varying levels of disease severity can surge and we continue to offer technical support to the Government-led national response.
The Aga Khan University Hospital also continues to work to advance our disease knowledge, processes, systems, protocols and patient flows which are being shared with the Government Health agencies, other healthcare institutions and professional bodies.
The University Hospital understands its role as one of knowledge building, training, and resources for other Hospitals and Healthcare Professionals to use and apply directly in caring for suspected or infected COVID-19 patients. In April 2020, AKU partnered with the Health Ministry to offer a range of trainings, tele-consultations, and assessment of ICU facilities across the country, aimed at supporting treatment for hospitalised, severely ill COVID-19 patients. Learn more here.
5) What can you expect from the Aga Khan University Hospital as the disease pandemic progresses in Pakistan?
Our expert scientists and clinicians in Public Health, Infectious Diseases, Family Medicine, Emergency Medicine, and Infection Control will continue to work on defining pathways to pave the way in the fight against COVID-19.
We are also working to enhance our capacity to admit and offer care to more COVID-19 patients, in addition to people needing care for other illnesses. Plans for a field hospital are on standby in the event that the pandemic reaches a national crisis situation.