Lahore: Federal Government, sensing that the provinces are unable to reform provincial health sectors, has stepped in and announced to setup 46 new hospitals in different cities of Pakistan. But, Opposition in Punjab Assembly has rejected the government’s decision by moving a resolution in Punjab Assembly.

The resolution was moved by the leader of opposition in Punjab Assembly, Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed, asking the government to rehabilitate the existing infrastructure of the health sector before starting new ventures.

The Federal Government plans to open 46 new hospitals in different cities of Pakistan to improve the overall health facilities in the country. According to the directive issued by the government, the Prime Minister wants to see this project completed by the end of his tenure in 2018.

Wajahat Masood, analyst and a right activist, comments,” It is strange on the part of Pakistan Tehrik Insaf (PTI) to bring the resolution against a positive and much needed step.” Health is a provincial subject and provincial governments are responsible to provide health facilities to their respective people. “According to my knowledge, the federal government will set up new hospitals in remote districts of every province which will help patients in backward areas get proper health facilities in their home towns.”

Talking to News Lens Pakistan about the resolution, Rasheed said his party was not against opening up new health facilities, what they want is the upgradation of the existing health infrastructure.  “ Can you imagine that Mayo Hospital, which happens to be one of the biggest hospitals in Asia, does not have MRI machine,” said Rasheed. There is only one CT scan machine in the hospital, he added.

Rasheed said  there is no health minister in the province. “I fail to understand why would the Chief Minister Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, keep the health ministry with him.”

Currently, the CM is holding nine portfolios.  Experts believe it is impossible for a minister to handle so many portfolios efficiently at one time.

The proposed cities in Punjab for 500-bed hospitals are Rajanpur, Jhang, Bhakkar, Sadiqabad, and Rawalpindi, while 250-bed hospitals would be constructed in Burewala, Ahmedpur East, Kot Addu, Taunsa, Sahiwal, Sargodha, Pasroor and Layyah.

In Sindh 500-bed hospitals are planned in Jacobabad, Mirpurkhas and Badin and 250-bed hospitals in Islamkot, Naushahro Feroze and Dadu districts.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 500-bed hospitals would be constructed in Haripur and Charsadda and 250-bed hospitals in Batgram, Hangu, and Chitral. A 250-bed hospital will also be set up in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Besides, 100-bed hospitals would be constructed in Garhi Habibullah and Kaghan.

In Balochistan, 100-bed hospitals would be established in Hub, Nushki, Chaman and Punjgur, 250-bed in Khuzdar, Loralai and Sibi and a 500-bed hospital in Quetta.

Furthermore, 250-bed hospitals would be established in Skardu and Gilgit; 100-bed in Karimabad (Hunza) and a 50-bed hospital in Ghanche, Gilgit-Baltistan.

A senior doctor, working in the Punjab Health Commission, talked to News Lens Pakistan on the condition of anonymity. He raised objections to the decision. He said the government is not looking at the health issue from the right perspective.
Making an analogy with Danish Schools, the source said that the government should be cautious not to make Danish hospitals. Explaining about Danish Schools, he said, areas where these schools were opened, the ratio of out of school children has risen. “Since the government had been pouring money in Danish schools, other schools began deteriorating in the absence of funds.”

The issue of quacks has not been resolved and even after the crackdown by the Punjab government to curb this illegal practice. There are approximately 2.5 million quacks in Punjab only against only 75,000 practicing doctors; Punjab Health Commission shared these facts with News Lens Pakistan.

Dr Noor Ul Zaman Rafiq, CEO, Phoenix Foundation, an NGO working in Health Sector, thinks that the number of quacks must be much higher than what is being quoted. “It is usually in the underdeveloped areas where quacks are found in large numbers,” said Noor.

Talking about new hospitals, Noor remembered how the same kind of initiative was taken by President Musharraf when a plethora of Basic Health Units was opened in different parts of the country. “I remember in Shorkot, Punjab, two BHUs were built in two union councils adjacent to one another. Eventually, these facilities have been used as stables because no doctor was willing to go there,” said Noor.

Experts say that it is easy to build hospitals but how these facilities will be run in remote locations is a big question that the government has not been able to answer. Many health units are lying barren because of lack of medical and paramedical staffs.

Saira Tarar, State Minister for Health, told News Lens Pakistan that there is an acute shortage of hospitals in underdeveloped areas. The idea to build 46 hospitals has been envisaged with this point of view in mind. When asked if doctors and other medical staff would be interested to serve in the remote and underdeveloped areas, she said that the new hospitals would be operated in a public-private partnership format. A company has already been formed and the government would ensure that the plan does not flounder and becomes a success, she concluded.


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