Healthcare for poor

IN a belated yet welcome development, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed Ministry of National Health Services for extending National Health Insurance Programme to entire country including FATA, GB and AJK. Chairing a meeting in Islamabad on Monday, he also emphasised the need for stringent monitoring system and zero tolerance for inefficiency at implementation level.
Poverty-stricken people in backward and remote areas of the country would surely heave a sigh of relief over prospects of their inclusion in a scheme that is widely being hailed in the districts already benefiting from the programme. It is worth mentioning that Federal Government was willing to launch the programme throughout the country, albeit in a phased manner, but KP and Sindh were reluctant to allow the Federation to implement the project apparently over issues of credit-taking and modus operandi for its implementation. This was despite the fact that provision of medical facilities to every segment of the society is prime concern of every government. Though it is still not clear as to what sort of understanding has been developed with the two provinces, where opposition parties are in power, but the direction of Prime Minister to bring poorest people from these provinces under the umbrella of programme is appreciable. Before introduction of health insurance scheme, people were left at the mercy of government dispensaries or unqualified medical practioners and quacks. Quality medical treatment for people, who were already financially hand to mouth, was a far off cry and condition of those suffering from fatal diseases was all the more pitiable. But we must bear in mind that extension of programme to the entire country doesn’t mean it covers each and every vulnerable family as the facility would be available to just those falling in definition of poverty meant for BISP, which is already under criticism. There are millions of people who cannot afford treatment of Hepatitis ‘B’, ‘C’, TB, Cancer, Diabetes and heart diseases and they should also be brought into its ambit. There is another handicap in the practical implementation of the programme in entire country – non-availability of quality medical facilities — and therefore, experts should also look into this aspect.

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