KARACHI: Members of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) pointed out on Friday that the government has been neglecting the health sector despite population growth, increasing the burden on health facilities.
Keeping in view the worsening state of health in the country, they called for allocating at least six per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) to the health budget, in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines while addressing a press conference.
Lamenting govt neglect
Addressing the media, PMA members criticised the government for lacking a health policy.
"Health is [clearly] not its [government's] priority," said Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, the general secretary of PMA's Karachi chapter, adding that no public awareness campaigns were launched by the government while chronic diseases were on the rise.
Also speaking on the occasion, PMA general secretary Dr SM Qaisar Sajjad said Pakistan was ranked fifth highest in the world in terms of population - the country's population exceeding 200 million and one of the fastest growing in the world. Meanwhile, "the country is facing challenges like poverty, illiteracy, energy crisis, terrorism and [most of all] the massive burden of diseases," he reflected.
He stressed that PMA has been recommending solutions to overcome problems faced in the health sector. However, "it is a reflection of the unfortunate state of affairs that PMA's voice continues to fall on deaf ears," he lamented.
Other members attributed the rise in diseases to poor healthcare delivery at the primary level and lack of awareness about various diseases. Most diseases plaguing the country can be prevented simply through vaccination, awareness campaigns and the government ensuring the provision of basic health facilities, they pointed out.
According to PMA members, health indicators have not shown any positive trend for many years and in some areas, the condition of the health sector has gone from bad to worse.
They said that according to WHO guidelines, the recommended health budget of a country was at least six per cent of its GDP but in Pakistan, it was kept below one per cent, of which 80 per cent was spent on salaries and administrative expenses. They added that of the 20 per cent left for the poor, the major chunk was eaten up by corruption, leaving a negligible amount for poor patients.
Healthcare facilities for masses top priority: PM
Recommending ways to curb diseases and to improve the health sector, Dr Qazi Muhammad Wasiq of PMA suggested the provision of clean potable water and ensuring proper sanitation across the country to reduce the incidence of diarrhoea, dysentery, typhoid and other illnesses. Disease prevention in this way will also help save billions spent on treating diseases, he added.
On the same lines, other members of PMA recommended conducting effective immunisation programmes to eradicate diseases, including polio, tuberculosis, measles, hepatitis and others.
They demanded of the government to devise a public-friendly health policy that considers ground realities, increase the health budget, focus on preventive health care, eliminate corruption and demonstrate the political will to address the country's health and education issues on a priority basis.
They also demanded the restoration of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council and a complete overhaul of the medical education and training imparted to doctors, in line with modern trends.
PMA members called for the government's attention towards the mushrooming growth of medical colleges and universities, as well as the faculty at these institutions and the fees charged from the students. They added that an effective campaign had to be launched to put an end to quackery and the supply of substandard drugs.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2020.