Sehat on the cards

In Punjab all families irrespective of their socioeconomic status will receive free quality medical treatment worth Rs720,000 in all empaneled private and state-owned hospitals through health insurance scheme.–File photo

Healthcare is one of the fundamental rights of people the world over. Many developed countries and welfare states such as Austria, France, Finland, Germany and Denmark provide Universal Health Care (UHC) to their denizens free of cost. Although developing countries are trying to utilize resources by employing various approaches to provide health coverage to the public, it requires nothing short of a miracle to achieve the target. Even for bigger economies providing UHC has been a gigantic task. Those residing in welfare states have access to medical care without bearing high expenditure. A healthy populace is the backbone of any country and it is the demand of human dignity that basic healthcare facilities should be accessible and affordable to everyone.

Since its inception Pakistan has been facing a multitude of problems in many sectors and health sector is no exception. The last government launched the PM’s National Health Programme which was later named Sehat Sahulat Programme (SSP) in 2018 and is similar in structure to KP’s SSP. Prime Minister Imran Khan considers UHC to be of supreme importance and plans to provide it to every citizen of Pakistan. The PTI government claims to have successfully implemented the SSP in KP despite budgetary constraints. Now the government plans to extend this programme to Punjab. Upon its successful implementation every citizen will be able to avail himself or herself of free healthcare facilities. The Sehat cards which will be distributed are going to maintain record for the government because the procedure is being monitored by NADRA and is likely to be transparent.

In Punjab all families irrespective of their socioeconomic status will receive free quality medical treatment worth Rs720,000 in all empaneled private and state-owned hospitals through health insurance scheme. The only treatment which is not available for these cardholders is a transplant, otherwise, they will receive treatment for every health issue. If the authorities succeed in complete implementation of the SSP programme, the healthcare status of Pakistan could improve considerably and it could make people’s lives better.

It is indeed a humongous challenge given the large population of the province. At present, the country is having an inadequate health system with constant rise in treatment costs. Pakistan’s health sector is in need of urgent reforms to be able to successfully handle and smoothly run a programme like this. Hospitals are already understaffed, especially there is a dearth of doctors in rural areas, and there is severe shortage of medicines and equipment. The ambulance network also leaves a lot to be desired.

PM Imran Khan had promised improvement in health and education sectors when he took over. Before entering politics, he provided quality healthcare by smoothly running Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre. The SSP can prove a milestone for Pakistan towards the Universal Health Coverage if the government employs sustainable techniques to upgrade the system and remove the hindrances experienced by people.

There is an urgent need to establish mechanisms which can increase the availability of proper healthcare in our country. Basic healthcare should be free as it could save lives, help people gain access to insurance and in the long run it is cost-effective. Several factors contribute to the successful implementation of such tremendous plan, maintaining a manageable ratio of doctor to patient should be on top of the list. The residents of the country should be able to find convenient access to medical staff and health treatment. We can help the government in the facilitation of healthcare programme. Though the government plans to dispense out free healthcare to all and sundry, affluent section of society (who can afford complete healthcare expenditure) should forgo their right, out of compassion in favor of communal interest. So the government should be able to focus health budget on those who are in dire need of it.

The writer is a freelancer based in Lahore.

One thought on “Sehat on the cards

  1. Health card seems to be a good starting point. But it needs to be seen how government amalgamates it with other critical aspects of healthcare.

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