Most patients at government-run Basic Health Units (BHUs) are deprived of free-of-charge medicines due to the unavailability of in-house pharmacies. This is despite improvements to the drug supply chain, reveals a monitoring report released by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN).
The report includes data on all BHUs in Islamabad, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Balochistan, 95 per cent of BHUs in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab and 69 per cent of BHUs in Sindh.
According to the report, the monitored health units lacked basic amenities and essential equipment, besides being understaffed, especially in the rural areas.
The report highlights that about 85 per cent of the monitored units had stocks of medicines, while 89 per cent were issuing free medicines to the patients.
However, 86 per cent of the patients surveyed complained of unavailability of medicines prescribed to them, which they then purchase at high costs.
The report also says that the stocks and issuance of free medicines has improved by nine and five per cent respectively since April 2010. However, the improvement is far from meeting the demand.
It also says that mini laboratories are lacking in 80 per cent of the BHUs, including the ones in the federal capital, one of the two BHUs in Fata, 90 per cent of health units in Punjab and at least 60 per cent in other areas.
Additionally one-third of the monitered BHUs did not have residential houses for doctors and other staff members on the premises.
The presence of such facilities in BHUs, especially those in far-off areas, is necessary to encourage doctors and medics to go to these areas to work, according to the report.
The report also mentions that maternal health is in a state of neglect. Maternity beds are not present in 39 per cent of the monitored BHUs, while 30 per cent are lacking labour rooms. Likewise, delivery kits were not present in 16 per cent of the monitored BHUs.
The report observed that BHUs do not have the staff to treat tuberculosis patients and to run diarrheal diseases and malaria control programmes.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2011.