Health spending: Consultation talks of misplaced priorities

Published: June 9, 2011

Pakistan Medical Association meeting highlights doctors’ concerns.

LAHORE: 

Participants of a Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) meeting on Wednesday expressed their dissatisfaction with the national health projects.

They discussed the problems in the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI), the Neonatal and Child Health (NNCG) programme, the programme for Family Planning and Primary Health Care (the Lady Heath Worker programme), the National Tuberculosis Control Programme and the Malaria Control Programme.

Despite newborn immunisation under the EPI, a child died every minute in Pakistan, they said.

They regretted that despite the family planning and health care programme, 30,000 pregnant women died every year due to complications, 80 per cent were handled by untrained health workers.

They said that Pakistan was sixth on the list of countries with most cases of tuberculosis and had more than 500,000 malaria cases every year.

According to the PMA, there is a shortage of Rs1.2 billion in the last year’s budget for the Health Department.

They said there was a dire need to control population.

Mian Imran Masood, a former provincial health minister, said that the government needs to better monitor facilities at the hospitals. “Most of the free medicines at various hospitals are spurious or stolen.”

He said that a cardiology centre initiated by the previous government in Wazirabad was ignored by the successor government.

Masood said that hospitals in Lahore were crowded. The government, he said, should improve the condition of the OPDs and the emergency departments at public hospitals, besides monitoring doctors’ attendance.

He said that Sir Ganga Ram Hospital was the only hospital with proper radiological facilities. He urged the government to provide similar facilities at all hospitals.

Dr Ashraf Nizami, the PMA Punjab president, suggested a three-step health programme of prevention, treatment and medical education.

The budgets prepared under the 18th amendment, he said, risked to disturb the projects in progress.

“Unfortunately, health has never been a priority with any government. We have a motorway, but we don’t have orthopaedic centres in rural areas,” he said.

He also criticised the mobile health units and said that such facilities were unnecessary in countries like Pakistan.

Such units, he said, were best suited to developed countries.

He proposed that an institute of endocrinology should be built instead.

He said the ratio of nurses to doctors in a hospital should be 12 to one. In Pakistan, the ratio was one nurse to eight doctors.

Dr Yasmeen Rashid, A PMA consultant, said that the federal government had failed to achieve its goals at national level and would not make much of a difference at provincial level either. She said there was no use building new hospitals where there were no doctors to treat the patients.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2011.

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