The Pakistan Medical Association’s (PMA) Sindh chapter provided a platform to political and religious parties to present their respective manifestoes as they pertain to healthcare at an event on Saturday. All the participants agreed that current healthcare spending, which accounts for 0.7 per cent of the national budget, is very low.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Khawaja Tariq Nazeer quoted the charter of the United Nations, which obliges states to provide basic healthcare facilities to their citizens. He said that his party would start providing such facilities in villages.
Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi chief Mohammad Hussain Mehanti criticised the alleged corruption in the country’s health system and told participants that his party will ensure the provision of life-saving drugs to everyone who needed them.
While referring to the Social Security Institution, which provides a dispensary for every 5,000 of its employees and their family members, Awami National Party’s Ameer Nawab said his party will initiate a similar programme for the country. A dispensary will be available for every 5,000 to 10,000 people.
Workers Party’s Akhtar Hussain demanded that healthcare spending be increased to 6 per cent of the national budget.
Awami Jamhoori Mahaz’s Dr Humayun Bashir asked doctors to take their responsibilities seriously and called for an end to nepotism and political interference in the health sector.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) hopes to bring up the country’s life expectancy from 65 years to the global average of of 69.5 years. PTI leader Arif Alvi added that his party would also establish a federal drug regulatory authority and will bring down the neonatal mortality from 44 per cent to 22 per cent.
Healthcare spending will account for five per cent of Sindh’s budget, according to Pakistan Peoples Party leader Taj Haider. The upcoming budget will allocate Rs13.8 billion for healthcare expenditure and Rs6.9 billion for new schemes. Nearly 10 district hospitals would become functional by December 2012. Haider added that his party plans to appoint a separate minister for preventive health, who will be responsible for providing healthcare facilities to 38% of the population that lives below the poverty level.
PMA Sindh president Dr Samrina Hashmi highlighted some health-related areas that were neglected so far. These included nutrition, early child development, women’s health, wellbeing of the elderly and the disabled and the impact of violence on mental health. Primary care that can cater to nearly 80 per cent of the people, but is allocated only 20 per cent of the health budget.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2012.