Next health budget: Not out with the old, rather getting the money in for them

Published: June 8, 2011
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One of the priorities of the Sindh health department is to strengthen existing services. PHOTO: FILE

One of the priorities of the Sindh health department is to strengthen existing services. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: 

At least 70 per cent of the upcoming budget for the department of health is likely to focus on finishing old projects, explains key official Shaista Mubarak who oversees development.

The orders to focus on wrapping up projects comes straight from the National Economic Council (NEC) that is chaired by the prime minister. “A huge chunk of projects which are scheduled over a couple or a few years keeps getting delayed because of a limit on resources,” Mubarak told The Express Tribune. “So … we are laying huge emphasis on project completions.”

Another chunk is expected to focus on strengthening current services being offered, especially at teaching hospitals. Only new projects which will offer the “maximum advantage” are being proposed while funding for awareness campaigns, on say cancer or infectious diseases, are also a goal. These seminars will not be exclusively focused on the public but will also target medical technicians and healthcare providers. About one billion rupees is expected to be asked for a campaign on hepatitis.

Thus the health department is asking the federal government or centre for money for 62 schemes. Nearly half of them, 38, are from the outgoing financial year, that ends in June 2011. Some new ones have been proposed as well for 2011-2012.

Strengthening, upgrading and modernising services is expected to cost. This includes schemes such as building and upgrading surgical and medical intensive care units in rural Sindh. “It can be misleading to say rural areas as towns such as Larkana, Hyderabad and Nawabshah all need better medical facilities and this is where a great deal of attention will be paid,” she explained.

When discussing new projects, sources within the health department said they are eyeing about 25 fully equipped ambulances. “There are not enough ambulances and we especially need those which offer full medical treatment and are not simply meant for transportation,” a  health official said. Right now, the ambulances are not equipped to take patients from towns to larger hospitals in the cities. Even referrals from government to private hospitals in case of emergencies are a grave problem. Eight ambulances are already in the process of being delivered to hospitals, which include Qatar Hospital in Orangi Town.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2011.

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