Efforts to improve the healthcare sector in Punjab can gain some momentum if only private hospitals followed the rules set by Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) and provided free beds to 7,625 patients.
According to official records of the Health Department, the 49 private hospitals affiliated with 28 medical colleges are bound to provide free beds to patients. The rules set by PMDC, a body which registers medical students and institutes states, “Fifty per cent of the beds shall operate free for accommodation and consultation, while treatment expenses including laboratory services, medicines and supplies, if any, shall be charged from the patients on a non-profit basis”.
As per PMDC rules, each medical student should have five beds under his supervision for which the 3,050 medical students in Punjab should have 15,250 beds under their supervision. If the PMDC rules are followed, up to 7,625 or half of the number of beds should be available free to the patients.
But, according to a senior official in the Punjab government, “apart from one or two, private hospitals generally do not have free beds for the patients, which is a violation of the PMDC rules. If the PMDC implements its policy in letter and spirit not only hundreds of patients can get free treatment but also the budget of healthcare provisions can go up by billions of rupees.
The stronghold of the private sector can be measured from the fact that the number of free beds in public teaching hospitals in the provincial capital is around 7,140 -- which is 485 beds lower than the private sector.
The spokesperson for University of Health Sciences Muhammad Atif said, “We want that people should get free beds as it will greatly improve the healthcare provision in the province. Private health sector is just making profit; it should also return something to people from its earnings. PMDC policy should be implemented and those not following rules should be dealt with as per the law”.
Dr Shahid Shaukat, joint secretary of Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), said that the PMDC had failed to deliver and implement its policy on private medical colleges and teaching hospitals across the country.
He said, “This policy cannot only help the people of Punjab but also patients in other provinces particularly in Sindh where there are 23 private medical colleges that have huge private hospitals affiliated as their teaching hospitals”.
Dr Majeed Chaudhry, principal of Lahore Medical and Dental College, denies such claims. The college, which is affiliated with three of the best hospitals in Lahore, claims to have provided free treatment worth Rs 2.5 million to patients. Dr Chaudhry says that during the dengue endemic last year patients were provided free treatment though he failed to give any number of free beds.
PMA Punjab president Dr Ashraf Nizami suggested that the provincial government should take up this matter with the newly formed Punjab Healthcare Commission. “Private teaching hospitals should be made bound to have free beds for patients as they have signed to do so before getting the status of teaching hospital and being affiliated with private medical colleges,” he added.
PMDC Registrar Dr Ahmad Nadeem Akbar said, “All our rules are in full compliance. Private teaching hospitals have free beds”. He said, “These are PMDC rules. If they are not followed then we should be worried, not the Punjab government. “
Special assistant to the chief minister on health in Punjab and a member of the National Assembly, Khwaja Salman Rafique, said he would personally look into the matter.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2012.