10/17/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Rawalpindi’s St Joseph Hospice, a centre of excellence for Christians and Muslims

by Jibran Khan
The facility, which is run by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary, is open to patients from all walks of life, creed or ethnic background. In 2006, President Musharraf gave the hospice an award. With 60 beds, it receives up to 300 patients a day. Care and treatment are free.
Rawalpindi (AsiaNews) – “Our love to God is measured by our everyday fellowship with others and the love it displays . . .” are the words that welcome patients and relatives arriving at the St Joseph’s Catholic Hospice in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The facility admits people with all sorts of illnesses and of all ages, young and old, offering free medical treatment and the possibility, for the less serious cases, to learn some basic work skills. The hospital has been run for the past 30 years by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary who in 2006 received an official award from the hands of the Pakistani president.

The hospice has 60 beds for resident patients and provides an outpatient clinic, which treats approximately 300 patients daily. There is a maternity ward with a nursery crowded with infants and toddlers, who make up the St Joseph family.

No one is turned away. A homely atmosphere prevails in the wards. Patients who can work are taught embroidery, knitting, tailoring and other handicrafts. Many of them do recover enough to return to their homes and are then able to earn some money from their newly acquired skills and contribute to their family’s welfare.

Franciscan Sisters of Mary from different countries, like Argentina, Canada, Poland, Spain and Pakistan, have run the hospice working for the past 30 years.

The staff includes 50 Pakistani nurses, aides, volunteer doctor, and ward helpers. Most of them come from urban areas and have been trained by the nuns.

The hospice has been treating patients with chronic illnesses and disabilities, tuberculosis, meningitis, polio and typhoid fever, etc. Children with congenital deformities and malnutrition are often abandoned to the hospice by their parents.

The facility has been a ray of hope for patients from all over Pakistan; since the early 80s, it has also treated Afghan refugees.

St Joseph has a well functioning laboratory, provides physiotherapy treatment and has its own pharmacy. All medical services are free of charge to the patients, regardless of cost or duration of treatment.

From patient’ words, one can draw the deep sense of the Catholic hospice’s mission.

"I am Salma Akbar,” one patient told AsiaNews. “I was suffering from meningitis and I came to the hospice a year ago. I had bedsores. I came here after visiting three other clinics. The sisters provided a very friendly environment and gave me the best treatment. They gave me hope again.”

Gul Khan 48 was paralysed when he was brought to the hospice. “I was told that could not be cured” but after six months at the facility “I can walk.” For him, “this place is filled with miracles. I cannot thank them [the staff] enough for changing my life.”

In the last few years, the St Joseph Catholic Hospice has treated thousands of patients who are silent witnesses of the remarkable work of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.

The Pakistani government officially recognised their service to the community. In 2006, they received the Award of Excellence directly from the hands of then President Pervez Musharraf.
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