At a time when the general population is becoming increasingly aware of healthcare issues like dengue fever or toxic medicines, the Pakistan Medical Association’s (PMA) annual health report gives out a thorough overview of the state of medicine in the country.
PMA office bearers presented the report at the Karachi Press Club on Saturday.
According to the report, there are 972 hospitals, 4,842 dispensaries, 5,344 basic health units, and 909 maternity and child health centres in the country, along with 144,901 doctors, 10,508 dentists, 73,244 nurses and 104,137 beds as of 2011. When taken in context with the country’s population, the ratio turns out to be 1,222 persons per doctor, 16,854 persons per dentist and 1,701 persons per hospital bed.
For 2010-2011, the report points out that 35 basic health units and 13 rural health centres were constructed and hospitals added 4,300 new beds. 4,500 doctors, 400 dentists, 3,200 nurses and 5,000 paramedics attained their academic degrees. A total of 96,000 lady health workers were trained and deployed in rural areas and eight million children were immunized.
Various health awareness programmes, including those focusing on HIV/Aids, malaria, tuberculosis and hepatitis were also organised. However, the total outlay of the health budget turned out to Rs0.42 billion, or only 0.23 per cent of the country’s GDP.
While pointing out various red flags, secretary general of the PMA, Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, said that 80 per cent of all deliveries in the country take place at homes, which probably accounts for thousands of deaths of infants as well as women. He mentioned various preventable diseases, like oral cancer and cardiovascular diseases that mainly arise when people either smoke a lot or eat things like ghutka and betel nut.
The PMA treasurer, Dr Qaiser Sajjad, said that oral cancer has now become the most common cancer in Pakistan. “Nearly 95 per cent of primary school students eat chalia, of which seven per cent also eat gutka,” he said.
While addressing the issue of medical education in the country, the president of the PMA, Dr Tipu Sultan, said that it was deteriorating. “Out of nearly 118 medical colleges in the country, hardly ten are imparting quality education. The government, on the other hand, recently recognized 29 more medical colleges,” he lamented.
Dr Mirza pointed out that 80 per cent of medical students are females, most of whom would not start practicing their profession and thus creating a shortage of doctors for the government. “Migration of doctors and healthcare professionals is also causing a brain drain and a chronic skills shortage.”
President-elect of PMA, Dr Muhammad Azhar Jadoon, demanded that the health budget raised from 0.23 per cent to six per cent of GDP. Other demands presented at the event included formation of a fair and powerful federal drug regulatory authority, restructuring of medical education, a career structure in place for young doctors that allows timely promotions, provision of security for doctors and health issues to be included in the manifesto of every political party.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2012.