Health conference: ‘Reform a non-starter unless doctors on board’

Doctors’ associations slam govt for not inviting them to discuss reform.

Our Correspondent July 04, 2013
An MTA office bearer said that no reforms would bear fruit until all stakeholders were taken on board.


Doctors’ representatives have slammed the government for not inviting them to a conference on healthcare reform that concluded on Wednesday.

The two-day conference brought together academics, professors, principals and vice chancellors, but representatives of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), the Young Doctors Association (YDA) and the Medical Teachers Association (MTA) were not invited.

A Health Department spokesman said that the conference focused on policy reform, so they only invited “senior doctors”. Several professors attended the conference, but the YDA and the PMA don’t have representatives above the level of assistant professor. The MTA has members who are professors and they participated in the event in a personal capacity, but none as representatives of the body.

“The government can’t implement any reforms without taking doctors on board,” said PMA General Secretary Dr Izhar Chaudhry. “It’s nice that they invited principals and vice chancellors, but they are government representatives.”

He said that the association was saddened that the government had not invited it to the conference, which showed its “undemocratic attitude”.

“At the end of the day, it is the young doctors working in public hospitals who will have to execute any new policy in the provision of healthcare,” said Dr Shabbir Chaudhry, the legal affairs head at the YDA. “Keeping us out of policy-making and the consultation process is undemocratic.”

An MTA office bearer said that no reforms would bear fruit until all stakeholders were taken on board. He condemned the government decision not to invite the MTA.

Concluding ceremony

Speaking at the concluding ceremony, Health Minister Khalil Tahir Sindhu said that the presentations made at the conference had been “thought-provoking” and included “very important recommendations” for reform of the healthcare sector.

He stressed the need to clean up the drinking water supply, saying waterborne diseases accounted for 40 per cent of illnesses in Pakistan. “If we can provide clean drinking water, the load at hospitals will automatically fall by 40 per cent,” he said.

Speaking at the conference, Health Secretary Hassan Iqbal said that the event had been a great success thanks to the participation of experts from the economic and social sectors, medical teachers, health managers and international partners.

The healthcare system needed reform, he said, but the change would take some time “because human nature does not accept change easily ... various universities elsewhere in the world teach ‘change management’ as a special subject”.

Responding to a question, Iqbal said that the Health Department had asked the federal government to take prompt action against diphtheria in Sindh after a case of the disease was confirmed there.

The government did not want the disease to spread to the Punjab, as had happened with measles, resulting in an outbreak that has claimed hundreds of lives in the province.

To another question, the secretary said that private medical colleges and hospitals would be made to comply with the law. Private medical colleges must arrange house jobs for their graduates on their own or pay the Health Department to accommodate them in government hospitals.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2013.


Umer Mir | 8 years ago | Reply

"It is the young doctors who will have to execute any new health care policy...". Please grow up, climb off your pedestal, open your eyes, and stop these shenanigans.

Umer Mir | 8 years ago | Reply

I don't exactly see how junior level clinicians working in government hospitals would have added value to any of the aims of the conference. According to another report in ET, the conference aimed to " first, to increase provisions for preventive care by correcting the imbalance between curative care and preventive health care in government spending; second, to realign the role of government “as the steward, financier, purchaser and regulator of health rather than only a provider of health services”; third, to harness private capacities and skills, for example, service delivery through partnerships in medical education; fourth, to revisit the health financing paradigm by investment in preventive care and by addressing equity issues through social safety nets for health and health insurance mechanisms, particularly for the poor; and fifth, to adopt an outcome and results-based approach rather than the conventional inputs and process-oriented style the focus would be on improving performance for service delivery (expanding coverage, ensuring quality and addressing equity) rather than just creating physical assets".

It seems like the YDA has aspirations of becoming a pressure mob forcing themselves in all health governance issues, even those that have nothing to do with them. They are becoming a problem though and need to be handled one way or the other.

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