Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday launched an ambitious ‘Prime Minister’s National Health Programme’ to provide free medical treatment to poorest of the poor at both public and private hospitals.
“It is a step forward towards making Pakistan a real welfare state,” Nawaz Sharif said at the launching ceremony of the programme, which, aimed at providing quality healthcare, has been launched in 15 districts in the first phase. The programme will be later expanded to 23 districts of the country.
The prime minister said the National Health Programme was fulfillment of one important promise of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) manifesto and said the people will hear more good news regarding better health and education facilities in the days ahead.
“We fully realise our responsibility as we believe that a healthy nation is the key to a prosperous and developed Pakistan,” Nawaz said.
He said under the programme the cardholders will be able to get free medical treatment and medicines of up to Rs300,000 at the designated public and private hospitals. “However, in case of a need for further hospitalisation and treatment, a patient could be provided an additional funding of up to Rs300,000 through Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal,” he said.
In this regard he directed the Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to look into the matter and said the funding for the Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal would be further enhanced, if needed.
The prime minister said the National Health Programme has been launched despite the resource constraint. “It is my desire that there is a quality hospital in every city and town across the country, to cater to the health needs of the common people,” he said.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he was aware of the sufferings of the poor, when one in the family gets sick and the family has to procure huge loans to get treatment. “No poor will now have to sell his household goods, or even their homes, to get medical treatment,” he said.
The prime minister said the hospitals participating in the programme would be upgraded and provided necessary medical equipment. He also directed the Minister of State for Health Saira Afzal Tarar to personally monitor and ensure that the programme runs smoothly.
“No staff would be tolerated who tries to create any obstacle in the smooth functioning of the programme,” the prime minister said. “It is an important issue dealing with health of our citizens,” he added.
Nawaz lauded the efforts made by Saira Afzal, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, Secretary Health Muhammad Ayub Sheikh and the chairpersons of the State Life Corporation and Nadra for their painstaking efforts.
The prime minister said it was his desire that the scope of the programme was expanded to the provinces and hoped for a positive response. He said provision of health and education facilities was the responsibility of provinces. “However, the federal government will continue to play its part in this important sector,” he said.
The programme to be launched with the cooperation of State Life Corporation and National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) would provide indoor treatment and admission to hospitals for the ailing. Around 1.2 million cardholder families would get this facility in the first phase.
The programme includes treatment for heart issues including angioplasty and bypass; diabetes and related complications; traffic accident and burn injuries including life and organ saving treatment, cancer including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery; complications related to renal failure and dialysis and complications related to chronic infections – Hepatitis and HIV, and Liver, Kidney and Heart failure.
US envoy calls on Nawaz
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Pakistan David M Hale called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the PM House on Thursday. It was his first meeting after taking over as the ambassador to Pakistan.
According to an official statement, issues pertaining to
bilateral relations and Afghanistan as well as other regional issues of mutual interests were discussed.
Hale said the successful visit of the prime minister to USA earlier in October was considered highly important.
He said during his tenure in Islamabad, he would focus on following up and implementing the agenda set out in the joint press statement including in the areas of economic and trade relations.
The ambassador congratulated Nawaz for successful holding of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process in Islamabad and said the US was keen to pursue the agreements reached in the trilateral and quadrilateral meetings on Afghanistan.
The prime minister said the recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendera Modi was a positive development and hoped to resolve bilateral issues between India and Pakistan.
Hale said the USA encouraged both the countries to resolve their differences through peaceful means, said the statement.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2016.