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Pakistan Today

Published Date: Aug 9, 2011


Health experts at a seminar on Monday discussed the details of a proposed new healthcare system for the country. Participants of the seminar demanded that health be given a priority in the political agenda.
The seminar, titled “National Health Care System for Pakistan” was organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI). World Health Organization (WHO) Pakistan TB Control Programme National Professional Officer Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi, Punjab Institute of Cardiology Post Graduate Resident in Cardiology Dr Muhammad Saleem, and SDPI Consultant Iftikhar Ahmad spoke at the event while Heart File President Dr Sania Nishter chaired the proceedings.
The participants of the seminar were briefed about a new proposed National Healthcare System (NHSP), which would be an autonomous body supervising population based distribution of medical facilities. The NHSP project included a resource generation plan, and experts predicted that it would be able to generate up to Rs 324 billion annually. The NHSP is envisioned to provide “health for all”.
Dr Nishter said Pakistan’s health care system could perform much better if sufficient funding and good governance- which ensured transparent and appropriate use of resources- were provided. She added that an overview of the country’s past health reforms showed that there had always been inconsistencies in health policies and no steps were ever taken to ensure proper implementation of reforms. Dr Nishter stressed the need for innovative restructuring of the health system at all levels.
Dr Saleem, while addressing the seminar, shared details of the proposed health care system and added that the existing health care system had failed to cater to the needs of people. Citing statistics, he maintained that the current system suffered from bad governance, inadequate supplies and poor financing. “In the first decade of the 21st century, we lost almost 4.8 million children. Further, Pakistan has the lowest life expectancy in the world, with the exception of Africa,” said Dr Saleem.
He further said that the NHSP, with its own resource generation formula, was envisioned to provide free medical care across the county. The NHSP would operate on the principles of universal coverage, equity, adequacy and transparency, said Dr Saleem, adding that the new system would consist of an autonomous body supported by specialised departments, and would be operated by comprehensive health units- set up to cater for each subset of the population- which would operate in line with an innovative resource generation plan.
Dr Saleem said that the new NHSP plan would attempt to overcome rural urban disparities, inadequacy and other barriers to healthcare delivery in order to ensure complete health care for all. The NHSP plan would include important components such as a health management information system, medical courts, a health accountability bureau, and a national medical council, he said.
Ahmed presented the groundbreaking resource generation plan developed for the NHSP. He briefed that the plan would involve every citizen of Pakistan and require from them a premium of Rs 5 per person per day. In addition to this, Ahmed identified several other financial resources for the NHSP, including budgetary allocations by the federal and provincial governments, payment on service usage, charity, income support programmes and foreign aid. He said that a total of about Rs 324 billion could be accumulated annually under this plan. These resources, along with the existing resources, would help lower the financial barrier that stands in the way of universal healthcare delivery, said Ahmed.
Dr Kazi gave a detailed presentation on country’s healthcare system and pointed out that the country had good health infrastructure and facilities but went on to underscore the importance of innovation and informed decision-making in creating a centralised health data system. Dr Kazi also lamented that over the last decade, less than 0.6 percent of the GDP had been spent on health. Dr Kazi further identified some priority areas in the health sector, such as the need to build the capacity of provincial health systems. Talking about the post-devolution scenario, he said that devolution should have been implemented much earlier. He added that there were still reservations that health should be dealt as a specialised subject and ultimately there would be need for a division at the federal level to take care of relevant matters as the provincial governments were still quite unclear about their roles in the health sector.