ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr Zafar Mirza on Monday said that a model primary healthcare system would be introduced in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) as a pilot project within the next 18 months.
The first Primary Healthcare unit would start working in the area of Shah Allah Ditta very soon, said Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza.
In a basic healthcare system, the services of the dentist would also be available. The model project would serve 2.2 million people of the ICT, he said in his keynote address on ‘Health Vision of Government of Pakistan’ organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
The local members of National Assembly from Islamabad have also been taken on board.
The data of patients of primary health centre patients would be linked with secondary and tertiary healthcare institutions for a prompt cure in case of shifting.
The primary healthcare systems of the country had already been put under the control of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Mirza said.
Reworking healthcare system
Pakistan needs a national regulatory framework for health services, devolution proved counterproductive for health and education departments, he said.
“Devolution of power does not mean that the federal government was absolved from its national responsibilities,” Mirza said.
There was a lack of communication regarding healthcare on national level which was a dangerous sign, he said.
The state minister for health said the federal government can have a regulatory framework at the national level within the umbrella of 18th Constitutional Amendment. He stressed the need for a well-thought-out, integrative and effective national regulatory framework for health services.
In the context of the 18th Amendment, he said macro-level programmes such as hepatitis, malaria and HIV control were either weakened or closed largely due to lack of proper coordination among provinces and centre. “Due to our irresponsible behaviour towards these diseases, the prevalence of hepatitis reached to dangerous 79 per cent in the country,” he lamented.
The state minister said that the government should carry out legislation on climate change and its impacts on human behaviour.
Every Pakistani should have access to basic health facilities. He said that the healthcare system should be ameliorated as the country’s population has grown more than 208 million compared with 32 million at the time of its birth.
Minister of State for Health Dr Zafar Mirza said effective primary healthcare was necessary for improving health indicators like child mortality rate, and life expectancy rate.
He said the government vision is to ensure universal healthcare coverage (UHC) for every individual which includes the full spectrum of essential, quality health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care. While delivering the keynote address on ‘Health Vision of Government of Pakistan’ organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Zafar presented the framework for UHC in Pakistan that how different healthcare facilities can be provided at the community, primary, secondary and tertiary levels. He said primary healthcare is the backbone and foundation for an improved healthcare system in a country which is being ignored since long in Pakistan.
“In Pakistan, the healthcare system has become disease-oriented rather health-oriented, whereas health is a much larger subject which includes physical and mental health, social health and wellbeing. Right to health was not guaranteed in our constitution,” state minister for health said.
Primary healthcare was ignored and never considered as a basic human right, he added. Over 70 per cent budget of health goes to big hospitals, whereas Basic Health Units (BHUs) was not provided with much needed basic facilities.
Moreover, at the federal level, we need to reform our institutions within the health sector, where there are around 37 different departments and divisions, which require fundamentals reforms.
Regarding population control, Mirza said one of positive development under institutional reforms agenda of the current government was the merger of population department with the health ministry.
Mirza said Pakistan’s per capita spending on health was lowest and even below the minimum threshold standard to achieve the basic level of the universal health coverage. “We need to change the discourse towards the health sector.”
On the question of tobacco control measures, he responded that the government abolished the third tier taxation structure and increased the duties, not only on tobacco products but on all hazardous products. “We are moving towards plan packaging and will make the tobacco industry accountable. Measures will be taken to ensure that the health cost on diseases due to the tobacco products, should be paid by the same industry,” he said.
Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination Parliamentary Secretary Dr Nousheen Hamid said due to 18th Amendment, there is no uniformity in the laws, as provinces and the centre are working in different directions, she said.
Dr Hamid said there was a need for uniformity in legislation through enhanced coordination among centre and provinces, within the umbrella of 18th Amendment.
Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI said during the 2018 election campaign, PM Imran Khan expressed his attention for health justice, where such a system of health justice should be in place where income level could not be a hurdle in access to health facilities.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2019.