Our Oman: 'The plan was to deliver best health services in shortest time'

Energy Wednesday 11/July/2018 22:11 PM
By: Times News Service

Dr. Arshad Ali Wasti has lived in Oman for decades, witnessing and playing an active role in the Renaissance that has nurtured the growth of the Sultanate’s state-of-the-art healthcare sector.
Having come to Oman nearly half a century ago, the expert ophthalmologist has proudly dedicated his time and efforts to rid Oman of eye diseases that were plaguing its population.
“I came to Oman on May 15, 1975,” said Wasti. “On arrival, I was very impressed with the people who received me.”
“I had been deputised by the government of Pakistan under a mutual cooperation programme to go and work in Oman, which was a neighbouring friendly country,” he added. “Here, I found myself working for the Ministry of Health.”
“I was given the task of organising the eye speciality and services for eye diseases,” recalled Wasti. “I was based in the only hospital at that time that had eye facilities, Al Nahda Hospital. I was very impressed with the enthusiasm of the Ministry of Health and my new colleagues because at that time, since health services were not so advanced, we faced numerous problems in my speciality in the form of old infections.
“One of them used to be called trachoma. Trachoma was found everywhere in villages and even big cities. Old people who had been deprived of healthcare facilities and treatment had a lot of damage in their eyes.”
“We initiated the Trachoma Eradication Programme straightaway, and this took me to various regional hospitals and clinics around Oman where I would collect patients, treat them, and also recruited doctors who could go and work with them,” he continued.
“At the same time, we began developing Al Nahda Hospital’s ophthalmology department by recruiting new doctors. And we were off to a very good start.”
After one year in Muscat, the doctor was then sent to Salalah.
“Salalah was a blessing as I went there in August at the height of the monsoon and I really enjoyed my stay there,” recounted Wasti. “They were building a new hospital, which is now the Sultan Qaboos Hospital in Salalah. So I again had the pleasure of organising the eye services in that hospital, and I started doing eye surgery.”
During his time in the southernmost governorate, Wasti and his team created cornea grafts to treat trachoma patients, marking the first time the procedure had been done in the Sultanate.
In 1979, he was sent back to Muscat where he was joined by his wife, who eventually worked as a gynaecologist at Khoula Hospital.
“The atmosphere at that time was that everything had to be achieved in the best form in the shortest period of time,” he explained. “Best education, best health facilities, best water supply, and schools, and the health of the children – everything was being tended to in their respective fields. There was a lot of enthusiasm, which I enjoyed.”
In 1983, the Wastis returned to Pakistan, only to come back to the Sultanate six years later.
“I had to go back to my country in 1983,” he said. “My government called me back. My second stint started again in 1989 when the Ministry of Health here wanted me to come back and my government agreed. So we continued the same work at Al Nahda Hospital.”
After spending years taking care of his patients, Wasti was awarded Omani citizenship and now lives here permanently with his family.
“Over that period of time, the country has definitely improved in leaps and bounds in all fields,” exclaimed Wasti. “It has become a modern country, it has a good education system, with a lot of stress on higher education. And the literacy rate has gone up so much that I feel the nation has taken it up as a religious duty. We were in very short supply when we came, now we see many doctors and consultants who are Omanis and running the Ministry of Health and other hospitals.”
“Life has become very, very good in this country,” he added. “All this is due to the complete and dedicated efforts of all the ministries under the guidance of His Majesty, who has taken a very deep interest in every sphere and field of life in Oman.”
Wasti also said he considers Oman very much as his own home.
“I, being from Pakistan, feel like I am in my own home,” he said. “We have our own community here, we meet together, we enjoy our life. It’s an extension of my country.”
“Being a very close neighbour of Pakistan, I feel at home,” said the doctor. “And I will continue to serve here as long as God allows.”