An important message on dignity and free health care from Dr Adeeb Rizvi

“Simply observing [a problem] doesn’t mean anything, unless you own it as a problem,” says Dr Adeeb Hasan Rizvi – renowned for his philanthropic contributions to public health as the founder of the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT).

He has spent a lifetime “owning” the problems in public health care and dedicating his professional career to solving them through free, and quality treatment. Dr Rizvi and his colleagues have built a remarkable institution, where not only do doctors use the most modern technology for the treatment of urology disorders and transplantation, but they place it at the service of those who have no means to pay for it.

Every day, SIUT demonstrates that a hospital does not have to be for-profit to sustain quality services. And the fact that it’s a government facility offering free treatment only reinforces the principle of the state’s obligation to respect the citizens’ right to health.

Dr Rizvi’s service to humanity started even before the commencement of his professional education; as a young volunteer bringing patients from slum areas to Karachi’s Civil Hospital. Enrolling in medical school brought him ‘nearer to the problem’ – which he identified as the lack of dignified healthcare for the poor.

Now, at 80 years of age, he has spent more than half his life in solving it; embodying a universal principle that ‘no one, irrespective of cast, colour, creed or religious belief should be deprived of food, education and health because he’s poor.’

Following his appointment as Assistant Professor of Urology at Karachi’s Civil Hospital, Dr Rizvi started SIUT in 1972 as an 8-bed unit within the hospital. Forty-seven years later, the institute has now become a centre for excellence in South Asia, and the largest urology, nephrology and transplantation facility in Pakistan.

SIUT currently conducts about 1000 dialysis a day and has performed over 5,800 transplants to date.

Dr Rizvi strongly associates a national identity with SIUT, and counts on individuals and organizations, to step up and contribute to its growth and operations; insisting on donations from Pakistanis, over international assistance.

His confidence in SIUT’s future – even after he retires – stems from his belief in the organization being larger than any one individual, with ownership divided amongst every member.

He is an ardent advocate of organ donation and hopes for more nuanced conversations around deceased organ donation in Pakistan, in context of road accident fatalities and the opportunity to convert a tragic loss into potentially saving thousands of lives.

Despite all of its accomplishments, Dr Rizvi is deeply worried by the fact that SIUT’s impact is only “the tip of the iceberg” compared to the country’s health care needs. SIUT’s costs are going up fast and donations have fallen. “There’s no place in the region that treats people with dignity free of cost and conducts all these kinds of operations,” says Dr Rizvi, who is concerned about the growing demand of SIUT’s services in the face of rising costs.

The government can not possibly meet the gap between the growing population and the existing infrastructure in public health, says Dr Rizvi.

Watch our interview with an inspiring individual and national treasure to learn about his early years, and what the future holds for SIUT.