Healthcare in decay

One can only hope that the Sindh govt will not wait for deaths to go into double digits before taking action


Editorial January 07, 2016
With at least six children reportedly having died from measles this week in Salehpat, there are concerns of a measles outbreak similar to the one experienced in 2013. PHOTO: ONLINE

Sindh appears to be threatened with the scourge of disease again. With at least six children reportedly having died from measles this week in Salehpat, there are concerns of a measles outbreak similar to the one experienced in 2013. That year saw nearly 300 children dying of the disease in the province. While some government authorities say that the deaths are due to malnutrition and not measles, a team of doctors has since visited the area to provide for measles’ vaccines. The cause of death can be debated and ascertained in time, but irrespective of whether it was malnutrition or measles, there is one underlying factor here — the deplorable state of health facilities in the province.

Although Salehpat lies close to one of Sindh’s more developed cities — Sukkur — there is only one basic health unit in the area, which is often without doctors. Every day an unknown number of lives are lost unnecessarily across Pakistan because governments have failed to provide citizens with the basic right to health. There seems to be no effective system that could ensure the presence of doctors or assess their basic skill level. The difference between health infrastructure in rural and urban areas is so stark — and this is true for all provinces — that people living in more remote areas often have little or no access to healthcare. Most doctors prefer to work in urban centres with there being little incentive for them to work in less developed parts of the country. While there are no short-term solutions to a long-standing problem like healthcare, the fact is that the PPP has been in power in Sindh since 2008. It has had enough time on its hand to institute meaningful reforms in the healthcare sector. No lessons appear to have been learnt from the 2013 outbreak. Regardless of whether there are six deaths or 300, nothing justifies children dying of a disease that has a preventive vaccine. One can only hope that this time, the Sindh government will not wait for deaths to go into double digits before taking action.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2016.

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