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Misuse and abuse of Sehat Sahulat Card has brought this wonderful scheme into disrepute

This facility should not be politicized & made available only for the
needy who have no source of income and recipient’s lists should be
prepared with caution Improvement of primary healthcare and
basic health infrastructure should be our priority

ISLAMABAD: Massive misuse and abuse of Sehat Sahulat Card has brought this wonderful social welfare scheme into disrepute. Ideally this facility should be available only to those who have no source of income or insufficient income to take care of their healthcare needs while the government’s first priority should be to improve the basic health infrastructure and primary healthcare besides prevention of diseases.

However, with the connivance of all the stakeholders which includes politicians, corrupt bureaucracy and greedy private health sector, the available scarce financial resources have been misused extensively since there was no monitoring system and accountability in place. Published reports in the media highlighted that while the KPK Government in one year paid ten billion rupees to the insurance company, eight billion of this was earned by the private hospitals while the public hospitals received only two billion rupees. In fact, this scheme did not help at all in the improvement of the public healthcare facilities to a great extent though exceptions are always there. If an audit of the Benazir Income Support Programme is carried out, it will reveal that almost 50% of the card holders are not eligible for this assistance. This shows how all such social welfare schemes are abused with the connivance of corrupt politicians.

Yet another report coming from the province of Punjab shows that almost eighty percent of C-Sections procedures were performed at private hospitals. While five lacs twenty-five thousand six hundred nineteen cesarean section procedures were performed at private hospitals only one lac forty-two thousand six hundred nineteen procedures were undertaken in public hospitals. Even the normal deliveries performed at private hospitals were much more as compared to the public hospitals under the Sehat Sahulat Card scheme. There have been even reports that surgeons were reluctant to perform surgeries in public hospitals and instead were keen and forcing the patients to avail the Sehat Sahulat Card to get operated at public hospitals. The payments made to the private hospitals in the province of Punjab from 2016 to 2024 against all the cesarean section procedures and normal deliveries amounted to Rs. 16.36 Billion. This is just a glimpse of how any well thought out wonderful scheme can be and has been sabotaged by those with vested interests.

The governments should refrain from politicizing this Sehat Sahulat Card scheme and make sure that only those who deserve, have no source of income, at the bottom of the poverty line get these cards. Those who cannot afford expensive health procedures can be offered some subsidized care but only at the public healthcare facilities. The first priority of the government should be to improve and expand the facilities at public hospitals, ensure primary healthcare, give priority to prevention of diseases, strengthen and improve the functioning of Basic Health Units, Tehsil and District Hospitals, promote health through creating awareness and health education so that people don’t suffer from various common diseases. At the same time ensuring safe water supply, proper sewerage facilities, cleanliness and better surroundings, environment, taking care of air pollution will pay rich dividends. The politicians should also refrain from making promises which they cannot fulfill, ensure judicious use of the scarce financial resources.

Let us try to find indigenous cost effective solutions to our problems rather than building Health Empires for the rich and affluent class. When we cannot ensure basic primary healthcare, let us refrain from wasting the resources on Robotic Surgery equipment. Such facilities should be available only at a few sleeted centers in major cities which can also be used for training the healthcare professionals. Collaboration between different healthcare facilities, pooling their resources and expertize can also pay rich dividends.

Ref: Misuse of Sehat Card Scheme. Daily DAWN Karachi. March 06, 2024.

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