Most public hospitals in twin cities have stopped providing treatment to Hepatitis patients who cannot afford to pay, putting their lives at stake.
A source at the Holy Family Hospital Rawalpindi said that the reason behind the suspension of treatment was the non-availability of interferon injections at many public sector hospitals.
Meanwhile, Secretary of Ministry of Capital Administration and Development (CAD) Riffat Shaheen Qazi has claimed that the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) and Polyclinic Hospital never included interferon injections, due to their high cost, in the list of medicines being provided (to patients) free of cost there.
On the other hand, officials who worked with the National Hepatitis Control Programme, told The Express Tribune that before the devolution of the health ministry to provinces, injections and tablets worth Rs200 million were distributed among hospitals in 2010-2011. They said that after the devolution of the subject, it was closed at the federal level.
A senior official, who earlier worked with the programme at the federal level and is currently working at the provincial level, said that out of Rs600 million, only Rs10 million were released in April 2012 (for the year 2011-2012) for the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) which could not be properly utilised due to delay in release. He said that out of the total released amount, around Rs4 million remained unutilised and lapsed.
He said that a total of Rs684 million was approved for the year 2012-2013, but no one knows where the amount went, either to the provinces or the federal government.
“Hepatitis C is spreading throughout the country, but, unfortunately, the government is not taking the issue seriously,” he said.
According to a source at the Holy Family Hospital, around 60 hepatitis C patients visit the out patient department (OPD) everyday and in 2012, the hospital registered a total of 15,000 patients at the hospital.
Babu Khan, a resident of Khayaban-e-Sir-Syed and a vendor by profession, who has been diagnosed with hepatitis C and is getting treatment from the hospital said, “Almost everyday I visit to hospital and ask for the injection, but they just say that they ask me to come later.”
“The six-month course costs Rs 50,000 to Rs70, 000, which, I cannot afford at private hospitals,” Khan, the sole bread-winner of his family, said.
The Polyclinic Hospital has not registered new hepatitis B or C patients in the last three or four months and over 300 new patients were in the waiting list but the hospital was not entertaining them, said a senior official of the Polyclinic wishing not to be named.
Dr Waseem Khawaja, a spokesman at the Pims, said that the hospital was short of funds, but, they were trying to facilitate patients through Baitul Mal funds.
He said that it was impossible for them to facilitate each and every Hepatitis patient.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2013.