At the time of independence, Pakistan had limited resources in all fields and facilities were just basic. Health delivery system, though functional was in its developmental stage and burdened with a sudden reshuffle of population and priorities.
Medical specialties were not even on the drawing board of the health delivery services. Anaesthesia was far away from being recognized as a specialty it was considered as a part of surgical specialty. Its becoming a department in its own right seemed like a dream, a fantasy. Anaesthesiologists could be counted on fingers and were located only in teaching and military hospitals. The act of providing anaesthesia to the patient was taken as a job, which could be done by the surgeons and at times by the technicians. There was no program of teaching and training for Anaesthesiologists and concept of structured course had eluded the planers of national health services. As the specialty of Anaesthesia was not accorded its place, anaesthesiologists were also not given their due rights. They functioned as an extension of Operation Theatre Staff, like an Unknown Soldier; who was never awarded. This state of affairs continued for the first two decades of nation’s existence only with a marginal improvement in the teaching hospitals where a course leading up to Diploma in Anaesthesia was introduced.
The global scenario on the other hand was changing with reference to medical training; Anaesthesia being no exception. Young doctors going to UK, USA and other western countries realized the extent and scope of this wonderful specialty of Anaesthesia and many opted for it. On the other hand, within the national medical landscape, the diploma holders and returnees from UK were feeling the need of recognition and upgrading of this specialty in its own right. Sense of not being able to do the best for the patient and the medical profession was overwhelming. The desire to make a difference and to be able to do something tangible for Anaesthesiology and for fellow Anaesthesiologists compelled a group of Anasethesiologists to organize meetings at the PMA House Karachi. It was in one such meeting on the 13th of March 1971, that the Pakistan Society of Anaesthesiologists, was established and all those present were made the founding members.
It was this historic moment that changed the face of the specialty in the country and there has been no looking back ever since. Until then the anaesthesiologists had to carry their own machines, drugs and even oxygen cylinders from hospital to hospital so the first step that the newly formed society took was an ultimatum to the private hospitals that anaesthesia machines and all necessary equipment and drugs had to be provided by a certain date otherwise no anaesthesiologists would go to that hospital. The threat worked and most of the major hospitals bought machines and medicines with other following suit soon thereafter.
The seed, which was planted in Karachi, has now become a full grown tree, extending its branches all over the country. Today, several branches of PSA have been formed and effective in major cities of Pakistan.
PSA has been working since decades in providing knowledge, skills and ethical education to the generations of Anaesthesiologist in the country. The Society took it upon itself to raise the academic and technical standards of the profession by holding regular clinical meetings, CMEs, PG Courses and seminars apart from Annual Conferences which have been held regularly since the inception of the society.
Horizons have widened and newer sub-disciplines like Critical Care, Pain Management, etc got introduced initially at the Civil Hospital Karachi leading the way in the public sector. The training programmes for fresh graduates are second to none and anaesthesiologists trained in Pakistan have excelled abroad, a few returning to raise the level even further.
PSA with the help of other South Asian Societies of Anaesthesiologists formed a platform of South Asian Confederation of Anaesthesiologists with a vow to address regional issues. To meet and share experiences in Biennial Congresses in different South Asian countries and taking out a Journal were to be the initial objectives. Further enhancement in its activities were achievements to look forward.
The PSA proudly hosted the 3rd SACA in 1997 and 8th SAARCAA congress in 2008. National, South Asian and International delegates from around the globe participated. Both were great achievements and milestones in the history of PSA.
The Anaesthesiologist of today owes everything he has achieved to those few who had the vision and courage to bring our specialty in the mainstream of health delivery services achieving status of super specialty today. We salute them.
In short the journey that began on a rocky and dusty road has now reached the highway to perfection and anaesthesia can boast to be one of the major and most developed specialty in the medical field of Pakistan. Our thanks to all those colleagues who made this possible and our vow to take the profession to even greater heights!
The specialty of Anaesthesia has grown and Pakistan Society of Anaesthesiologists has now become a “ROLE MODEL SOCIETY”.