off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Senate elections upset and
its effect in health sector

Former Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani’s upset victory in Senate elections over the ruling party nominee Finance Minister Hafeez Sheikh is also going to have ripples all round and health sector will be no exception. For the time being the transfer of the leading three tertiary care hospitals in Karachi i.e. NICVD, Institute of Child Health and Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre will not be possible and their fate won’t be decided too soon. Unfortunately the strained relations between the Federal and Provincial Government on this issue has already seriously affected the growth and development of these institutions over the years. Many posts are vacant and they cannot filled up. Outstanding bills amounting to billions of rupees particularly at NICVD are stuck up by various suppliers and this issue will also remain un-resolved for the time being.

Yet another setback will be that the enthusiasm to enforce the Medical Teaching Institutions Act in Punjab will also be seriously affected. Though the provincial government has already issued the notification but its implementation will not be easy since it is being opposed not only by the healthcare professionals under the banner of Grand Health Alliance but the Pakistan Medical Association Punjab has also condemned it and resolved to reject it calling it privatization of the healthcare facilities. The MTI Act has some very noble objectives and no one will disagree that punctuality of healthcare professionals on duty, improvement of patient care, clinical and academic audit and start of Institutional Practice by the staff within these hospital premises are good initiative but before implementing these measures, the government must improve the basic infrastructure at these hospitals. At present a visit to the Out Patients Departments of these institutions will reveal the stinking environment and there are neither proper restroom facilities nor proper comfortable waiting area for the patients. Under these circumstances, this system which has been imposed without meaningful discussions with all the stakeholders won’t work.

The Sehat Card scheme will also fail to achieve the desired objectives. These Sehat Cards should only be issued to selected families who are at the bottom end of the poverty line and do not have enough resources. Instead of issuing Sehat Card to every family, the same amount should be used to improve the treatment facilities at public healthcare facilities besides ensuring free availability of essential drugs at all public hospitals. Sehat Card scheme will be exploited by the vested interests, in the end it will only benefit the private hospitals and the insurance companies as there are tremendous chances of exploitation and fraud without proper monitoring system in place.

If previously it was the two major political parties i.e. Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Pakistan People’s Party which failed to resolve their differences regarding the Pakistan Medical & Dental Council, now Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf has created further mess by establishing the Pakistan Medical Commission. So all the three major political parties continue to play politics with Health and Education in the country. People in general and medical profession in particular will still have to wait for any meaningful reforms in health sector.

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