off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Health Card Scheme

“Prime Minister Imran Khan has stated that the Government’s Health Card Scheme will bring revolution in the health sector besides providing universal health coverage to people particularly the poor and needy.”

Health Card was the initiative of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) which was later adopted by the Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaf in the province of NWFP. When it formed the Government in Center, this facility has been extended to the province of Punjab as well. The higher judiciary had done well first to ask the PML (N) to remove the photograph of Mian Nawaz Sahrif from the Health Card and later to the PTI to refrain from printing these cards in the colours which reflect the PTI Flag. The health issues does not need to be politicized.

Health Card was and is a good initiative but the way it is being implemented does not seem to be good and with due respect one would like to differ with the Prime Minister. Actually these Health Cards were intended and should be reserved only for those who are really poor with no income generating facility so that once they fell sick, they can use this facility and get treatment at the healthcare facilities. It should not be issued liberally to every one because in the long run, it will defeat the real purpose.

As the Prime Minister has himself stated no country in the world can afford to provide free healthcare to its entire population. Hence, we need to streamline our health services with a view to serve the entire population wherein these services are not only easily available but also affordable. What we need to do is to give preference to preventive strategy so that people do not fall sick in the first place. Our major emphasis should be on provision of pure safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, immunization and controlling the communicable diseases. All the Basic Health Units should be made fully functional and their strict monitoring ensured. All the essential drugs for common diseases should be made available free at all the healthcare facilities and a proper referral system from Basic Health Unit to Rural Health Centers, Tehsil and District Headquarters Hospital and then Teaching Hospitals put in place. This will reduce the burden on the tertiary healthcare facilities. Only the real poor with no income generation should be provided these Health Cards while all others should avail these services from public healthcare facilities. With the provision of Health Cards as being done at present, it will be the private hospitals and Insurance companies which will benefit the most. There are enormous opportunities for corruption and in the days to come, we might see many such cases being investigated by various agencies. On the contrary, if provision of Health Cards is restricted to the above mentioned category and the remaining funds are judiciously utilized to improve, expand and strengthen the existing public healthcare facilities, it will have a much better positive outcome. Hence, we must concentrate on improving the basic health infrastructure, prevention of diseases, health education and creating awareness among the public to use these facilities.

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