AKU's Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Pakistan

The Aga Khan University is at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 in Pakistan. The University is responding to the pandemic in the following ways:

Providing safe, high-quality care for infected patients and other patients ​

Rigorous infection-control protocols

  • A multi-disciplinary team of experts has worked around the clock to ensure that the Aga Khan University Hospital is able to safely care for COVID-19 patients and all other patients. In many cases, our infection-prevention protocols exceed the guidelines of the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Patients with COVID-19 are assessed and cared for in designated spaces that are separated from areas where other patients are treated. These spaces use negative air pressure systems to prevent transmission of the virus. They include:

    • A state-of-the-art Acute Care Unit​ for treating critical COVID-19 cases.

    • A Clinical Decision Unit within the Emergency Department.

    • A COVID-19 Diagnosis and Treatment Zone that has been set aside to care exclusively for admitted COVID-19 patients.

  • Numerous other measures are being taken to ensure the Hospital is safe for all patients, as well as for its staff.  

    • Appropriate personal protective equipment such as gloves, gowns, masks, goggles, etc. is being provided, and staff have been trained in its proper usage.

    • Cleaning and disinfecting measures have been enhanced.

    • Patients are assessed for infection before entering clinical areas, and everyone visiting the Hospital is being asked to wear a mask.

    • Patients are only allowed to bring one attendant with them to the Hospital, and admitted patients are not allowed visitors, in order to reduce the number of people on campus. 

Providing safe, high-quality care for the infected

  • The Hospital has been treating COVID-19 patients since February 26, when it treated Pakistan's first case.

    • Should a patient be unable to afford the cost of COVID-19 care, the Hospital's Patient Welfare Programme can help them to pay their bill. Zakat is also available for eligible patients, through the Patients' Behbud Society for the Aga Khan University Hospital. ​

Providing safe, high-quality care for non-COVID-19 patients

  • The Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) and all other AKU health care facilities are open for patients with a wide range of conditions.   ​

  • In addition to providing safe care within the Hospital, the Hospital has made it possible to access care without leaving home.

    • Telehealth services have been established so people can consult their doctor online or over the phone.

    • Home health services are being provided. These include physician, nursing and physiotherapy services; laboratory collection services; and pharmacy delivery services. ​

Providing COVID-19 testing ​​

  • AKUH was the first private hospital in Pakistan to develop a COVID-19 test and has been performing testing since February 11. 

  • The Hospital has performed 61,000 tests for COVID-19 as of July 16.

  • A COVID-19 Screening and Testing Zone has been created on the edge of AKU's Stadium Road campus. The facility is well away from the Hospital and has its own entrance and parking. Testing is done from booths specially designed and built by AKU to ensure the safety of those coming for testing, as well as the safety of staff. Individuals seeking testing will need to call first so a physician can screen them to determine whether a test is required.  

    • Should a patient be unable to afford the cost of testing, the Hospital's Patient Welfare Programme can help them to pay their bill. Zakat is also available for eligible individuals, through the Patients' Behbud Society for the Aga Khan University Hospital. ​

Conducting research to better understand the virus and the outbreak, and to develop innovative solutions

  • ­A COVID-19 Research Coordinating Unit has been established and numerous projects are moving forward or under consideration. Examples include:

    • A convalescent plasma therapy study​ to determine if antibodies from the plasma of recovered patients can be used to treat patients who are critically ill.

    • AKU is participating in the World Health Organization's Solidarity trial, which is testing the drug Remdesivir.

    • A study to determine whether different strains of the virus are associated with more severe illness.

    • Local development of high-quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including N95 masks and impermeable gowns.

    • Development of a 3D-printed testing swab and a mechanical resuscitator.

    • Assessing the safety and effectiveness of altering ventilators to serve multiple patients in emergency situations.

    • Establishment of a biorepository for blood and other samples to facilitate studies that can clarify how the virus is evolving and spreading.

    • Development of risk-prediction and decision-making tools for clinical care.

  • AKU's Technology Innovation Support Centre has developed a self-screening mobile app​​ called CoronaCheck to help people determine if they require testing. The app is available for download.

  • The online Jugaar Innovation Challenge was created by the University's Critical Creative Innovative Thinking initiative to facilitate innovation that can help combat COVID-19 and its impact.

  • A survey of 700+ Pakistanis​ in urban and rural areas by AKU's Community Health Sciences Department found low levels of awareness of COVID-19 risk factors, symptoms and prevention measures. Researchers are now working on developing materials to increase public awareness.

Advising government and other hospitals and health care professionals

  • AKU experts are advising the Government​ of Sindh and the federal government as members of key committees and task forces, including Sindh's COVID-19 Research Committee and COVID-19 Testing Capacity Enhancement Committee, as well as the Prime Minister's Health Task Force.

  • Under an agreement with the Government of Sindh​, and with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ​AKU is training staff at government hospitals in critical care and emergency care for COVID-19 patients, and is providing teleconsultation services to physicians at government hospitals to help them manage critical cases of COVID-19. 

  • Under an agreement with the federal Ministry of Health, and with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, AKU is training staff at government hospitals in critical care for COVID-19 patients, supporting the government's "We Care" initiative by training 10,000 health care workers in the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), providing teleconsultation services to staff at government hospitals to help them manage critical cases of COVID-19 and conducting an assessment of ICU capacity at government hospitals across the country. 

  • With the support of Rs 79.5 million (US$ 475,000) from the Dawood Foundation​, AKU will provide online training on caring for COVID-19 patients to 5,000 health care professionals; provide in-person training to 500 health care workers at their health facilities; and provide free teleconsultations to health care professionals at other institutions to help them manage patients with COVID-19.​​

  • Faculty played a leading role in designing the isolation centre established by the Government of Sindh at the Karachi Expo Centre, which has room for up to 1,200 beds. Based on that experience, faculty then published a 119-page handbook on creating isolation centres, which was used to establish an isolation centre at the Pakistan Air Force Museum.

  • Faculty have helped to develop guidelines and information sources for treating COVID-19 cases that can be used by health care workers across Pakistan. These include national guidelines for treating COVID-19 in children and adults​. ​ 

Educating the public

  • AKU experts have been prominently featured in the media (print, online, television and social media) and are helping to keep the public informed about the virus and how they can stay safe. The University appeared in more than 1,200 print, online, radio and TV stories from Feb. 28-June 25. Faculty have also published scores of op-eds​ on COVID-19 and the pandemic.  

  • The Aga Khan University Hospital's COVID-related videos​​ have been viewed 1.3 million times. 

  • Our COVID-19 Helpline has fielded 55,800 calls as of July 29.

Teaching online so that students can continue learnin​g while remaining safe

  • Shifting to online instruction on short notice has required a tremendous effort by our faculty and staff. Fortunately, AKU already has substantial experience in online learning. A faculty development programme in blended learning has been in place since 2011, and 1,500+ online AKU courses are available for faculty to use. The University's Network of Quality Teaching and Learning​ is playing a key role in facilitating effective online teaching, and has trained 200 faculty and staff to date. 

  • All AKU programmes in Pakistan are conducting online courses for students. 

  • ​The Medical College has introduced a six-week course​ on the novel​ coronavirus for its students. 
  • Faculty and staff who can work from home are doing so.

  • Student hostels have been vacated as mandated by the Higher Education Commission.

Mobilizing the AKU community

  • ​At the request of our supporters, we have established a COVID-19 Fund to accept donations that will be used to support our efforts. 

  • AKU student volunteers are contributing to the fight against the virus. They have created a Student Taskforce Against COVID-19​ and have signed up hundreds of students from AKU and other universities to educate the public. Students are staffing our COVID-19 hotline and have volunteered at the Karachi Expo Centre isolation facility.​​

  • AKU alumni are supporting the University's COVID-related initiatives as volunteers​

  • ​AKU students are delivering a 1.5-hour course on COVID-19​ to schoolchildren.

Page Last Updated July 28, 2020