The chief minister’s budget speech seems to indicate that the government has been kicked out of its stupor after the recent outbreak of measles across parts of Sindh and the spike in the incidence of waterborne diseases.
This was also indicated in the fact that the health department has been allocated Rs17 billion for new health schemes - around 54 per cent more than the amount allocated for the purpose in the previous fiscal year. The total outlay for the health department for the fiscal year 2013-14 is Rs53 billion.
In his speech, the chief minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, claimed that health services had improved over the last year and the government was going to allocate Rs500 million more to set up an information system which would contain patients’ histories.
He did, however, acknowledge the need for further improvement as far as health services go: Qaim said the outbreak of various diseases, including measles, had raised question marks about how effective vaccines are. He said that to improve the quality of vaccines, the government will set up solar-energy systems at vaccine storage points all over the province. An amount of Rs500 million has been earmarked for this scheme for the first year.
A total of 78 new schemes - including 69 related to teaching and hospitals - will be initiated in the new fiscal year. About 17 billion have been allocated for new schemes, while Rs13.48 billion has been earmarked for ongoing projects.
Prevention is better than cure
The government has allocated a total of Rs1.08 billion for six new prevention programmes and Rs1.83 billion for seven ongoing ones. Among the new schemes is the strengthening of Thalassemia control across the province.
Among the expenditure on old schemes is Rs185 million each on the tuberculosis and malaria control programmes and Rs134 million on the prevention and control of blindness. A total of Rs1 billion has been spent on hepatitis prevention and control.
Other interesting schemes on the cards include rescue ambulance services and a child survival programme. Yet another pilot project to keep an eye out for is the mobile 12-bed health units, for which Rs1.65 billion have been earmarked.
The government has also allocated a considerable amount to spruce up existing infrastructure. For instance, it has allocated Rs1.8 billion to establish an accident and emergency service complex at the Civil Hospital, Karachi. Another Rs200 million have been allocated for the provision of allied facilities at the Jacobabad Institute of Medical Sciences.
A total of Rs500 million have also been set aside to upgrade Tehsil Headquarter hospitals (THQs) to the level of District Head Quarter Hospitals (DHQs). The existing DHQs themselves will be spruced up and expanded, with a total of Rs900 million set aside for this purpose.
A difference of opinion
Not everyone has the same take on the new projects as the provincial government though. While talking to The Express Tribune, the president of Pakistan Medical Association in Sindh, Dr Samrina Hashmi, said that instead of starting new schemes, the government should stop corruption and misuse of funds in the ongoing ones.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2013.
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