off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid



Cost of free treatment
at public hospitals


Despite lot of criticism both by the print and electronic media most of which is uncalled for and unwarranted, public healthcare facilities remain the last ray of hope for millions of patients who get cured by availing treatment there. The healthcare professionals work round the clock under difficult circumstances, uncomfortable working environment but the media never mentions about this. However, any mishap, complications during surgical procedures are highlighted as breaking news which has its effect and demoralize these healthcare professionals. Media personnel most of whom even do not have the basic core knowledge about health services, medicine are seen passing on judgments as if they are experts in the respective field.

What is more surprising is the fact that most of those who benefit from these free healthcare facilities do not realize how much the government spends on all this. During the last couple of years, the authorities in Punjab and Khyber PK provinces in particular, have made significant investment in improving and expanding the existing diagnostic, imaging as well as treatment facilities including provision of free drugs and medicines at most of the public hospitals and in Emergency in particular where no patient is asked to purchase medicines and all their needs are most often met from government sources.

Prof. Masroor Qazi, Professor of Medicine at Quaid-e-Azam Medical College, BV Hospital Bahawalpur while talking about the expectations of the patients during the recently held NADEP FOOT CON 2018 at Lahore narrated this story to me which I would like to share with the readers. Speaking about the services available at public hospitals he pointed out that now even the most expensive diagnostic facilities including CT scan and MRI are available free at public hospitals and whosoever is recommended, these requests are entertained by the concerned departments. What else the patients demand, he asked? Continuing he shared another story of a female patient who brought her five years old son in a very serious condition. He had to be put on injectable therapy TDS after all the necessary investigations. The boy started recovering and within three days, he was much better. When I went on the ward round, Prof. Qazi Masroor said, the women asked that her son should be discharged saying that he will complete the rest of the treatment for four to five days privately. When she was asked,” Do you know how much the drugs and medicines the patient was getting daily free while admitted in the hospital will cost you?” She replied in negative. She was told that these drugs will cost five and a half thousand rupees daily and four to five days treatment meant the family needed twenty to twenty five thousand rupees. Can they afford it? The women replied, “Doctor Sahib, Main koina Wahndey, Ithan he Ilaj Karesoon Humaray pass itny paisa naheen hain”. I won’t go and would prefer to get treatment here in the hospital as we cannot afford this expensive treatment privately about which we were not aware.

The problem, Prof. Masroor Qazi stated is that these people do not know the exact situation and the actual cost of treatment which they are getting free, hence they do not appreciate it. We as a society have developed a habit of criticizing the government for everything and never appreciate the good deeds of the government. No country in the world, even the wealthiest Nations can afford to provide completely free medical treatment. Someone has to pay. Howsoever, in Pakistan while we do not pay the taxes honestly, we do not hesitate to criticize the government. While we demand our Rights, we must be aware of our Responsibilities as well. Let us pray that the Media in general and the politicians in particular learn to appreciate and praise good work by the Government irrespective of the fact whose party is in Government. Unless we develop this culture of appreciation along with transparent across the board accountability of every one without any exception, situation will never change.

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