Universal health coverage for all not possible without effective primary healthcare: Mirza

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Zubair Qureshi

Minister of State for Health, Dr. Zafar Mirza has made it clear that without an effective and quality primary healthcare, no country can achieve higher health indicators including child mortality rate, life expectancy rate etc.
While delivering the keynote address on ‘Health Vision of Government of Pakistan’ organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Dr Zafar presented a framework for UHC in Pakistan as how different healthcare facilities can be provided at community, primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
He said primary healthcare was the backbone and foundation for improved healthcare system in a country which is being ignored since long in Pakistan.
The government vision is to ensure universal healthcare coverage (UHC) for every individual which includes the full spectrum of essential, quality health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care.
In the context of 18th amendment, health minister said the major macro level programmes of health sectors, such as Hepatitis, Malaria and HIV control programmes, were either weaken or closed largely due to lack of proper coordination among provinces and center.
Due to our irresponsible behavior towards these disease control programmes of national importance, which can be easily controlled, the prevalence of Hepatitis disease reached to dangerous 79 per cent in the country, he lamented. On question of tobacco control measures, he responded that the government abolished the third tier taxation structure and increased the duties, not only on tobacco products but on all hazardous products. He said we are moving towards plan packaging and will make the tobacco Industry accountable. Measure will be taken to ensure that the health cost on diseases due to the tobacco products, should be paid by the same industry, he stressed.
Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination Dr Nousheen Hamid, said Pakistan was an over legislative country where implementation remained one of the major challenges. She said there are 196 laws related to health sector and some of the laws are too old which require fundamental revision to the modern needs. Due to 18th amendment, there is no uniformity in the laws, as provinces and the center are working in different directions, she said adding the need for uniformity in legislations through enhanced coordination among center and provinces, within the umbrella of 18th amendment.
Executive Director, SDPI Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, said during the 2018 election campaign, Prime Minister Imran Khan had promised health justice, where a such system of health justice should be in place where income level could not be a hurdle in access to health facilities.
He said this resolve of the prime minister was expressed in the letter of intent of his government to the IMF, where social protection was the third major pillar of the programme, where previous IMF packages were focused only on fiscal consolidation and structural reforms.