Public healthcare in Pakistan has been neglected by successive governments—including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. In 2016, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif announced an ambitious plan to build 45 hospitals under the health reforms programme before the end of his government’s term. Subsequently, the former premier established a company to complete the task of building the hospitals across the country. The hospitals were supposed to have the capacity of 500, 250 and 100 beds. As per the plan, the company was expected to construct these hospitals in three phases. During the first phase, 14 hospitals were to be established in different parts of the country. Unfortunately, this was another promise on the paper that was never fulfilled. Despite the growing demand for healthcare across the country, the government failed to provide the funds allocated for the plan.
According to a World Bank report, Pakistan’s per capita health spending is still below the World Health Organisation spending benchmark for low-income countries. Our healthcare sector has been a victim of broken promises and over-ambitious plans. While governments have conveniently blamed high population growth, uneven distribution of health professionals, deficient workforce for our failing healthcare system, lack of political will and inadequate funding probably are the most prominent factors that have jeopardised the healthcare sector in Pakistan.
In reality, the provision of quality healthcare depends most importantly on good governance — that the PML-N has been claiming credit for. For too long we have been spending too little on our healthcare. This can no longer continue. The failure to provide adequate and quality healthcare indicates that perennially troubled state health sector was never on the Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz government’s priority list. Perhaps the 45 healthcare facilities were nothing more than just another promise — that wasn’t meant to be kept.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2018.