WEB DESK: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seems to have heard people complain about the miserable state of healthcare facilities in this country while privileged persons like himself receive medical treatment in state-of-the-art hospitals abroad.
Holding an extensive briefing session the other day on the Rs 110 billion ‘Prime Minister’s Initiative to Improve Healthcare Infrastructure’, he gave the go-ahead for the construction of 39 modern hospitals in different parts of the country. Three of them, 600-bed each, are for Islamabad, and the rest of the 500-bed and 250-bed health centres for different parts of the country. He also approved ‘in principle’ proposed sites for two more hospitals in the federal capital, which perhaps would be better located somewhere else.
The need for more public sector health centres cannot be emphasised enough given the prevailing conditions. As per established standards there should be five beds for 1000 people. In this country that benchmark seems a fanciful idea considering the example of a premier government hospital in Lahore where cardiac patients needing complete peace can be seen lying two to a bed. In Karachi’s National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) the situation is even worse; there are months of every year – November, December and January – when patients are found lying on the floors of wards due to lack of required number of beds.
A lot more needs to be added to the existing facilities. As for the PM’s initiative it is a matter of satisfaction that the criteria to be used for the new hospitals include such important factors in selection of sites as poverty ranking, remoteness, burden of diseases, presence of public and private hospitals, and poor health indicators.
Balochistan, interior Sindh, south Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Fata, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are to get priority. The question that may still worry some is whether the plan will actually materialize. There is reason for optimism. The Prime Minister has said he wants majority of the hospitals to be completed within the next 18 months – that is when the next general elections are due – in time for vote getting campaign.
Two related issues also deserve urgent attention. One of course is the need to improve the efficiency of existing facilities. It is worth recalling here that while hearing a case earlier this month about alleged wrongdoing in the supply of medicines and some other items at the Polyclinic, a Supreme Court bench expressed disappointment over dysfunctional equipment and the state of laboratories in public sector hospitals, asking the vital questions “why they are out of order?
In case they are in order, why their results do not conform to those of reputed laboratories in the private sector?” Secondly, during his tenure as the Punjab chief minister, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi had initiated work on some good health infrastructure projects in different cities at a substantial cost, only to be abandoned by the next government. That policy calls for a review.
These near-complete hospitals are no one’s personal property. So much public money already spent on them must not go to waste.
Source: Business Recorder