KARACHI: Medical experts, economists and educators believe that better and easier access to healthcare could be possible if the state fulfills its responsibility and people willingly pay their taxes.
The Aga Khan University (AKU) organised a panel discussion, titled 'The Ethics and Economics of Healthcare in 21st Century' on Thursday as part of AKU's Sixth Sense Forum lecture series.
"The state is inefficient. It has withdrawn from its responsibilities," said Dr Akbar Zaidi, an economist. "It has withdrawn even from governance," he lamented. He said that due to the absence of the government's institutions, people who cannot afford to pay their medical bills are given access to healthcare facilities by charitable organisations.
Justifying his point of view on political activism, Dr Zaidi said that Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are the best examples of provinces where health facilities are being provided to citizens. "In Sindh, no one cares." He said that political competition is very essential and it is time to put pressure on political parties to perform as well.
"Patient care is the primary responsibility," said Dr Aamir Jafarey, an associate professor at the Centre of Biomedical Ethics and Culture of the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT). He claimed that physicians are managers, thereby creating a conflict of interest.
Dr Jafarey said that a patient is considered a client or a customer. "It is also in my [a doctor's] interest if I provide better treatment to a patient. There is always a trust relationship between a doctor and a patient," he maintained.
Dr Jafarey said that there are several organisations with success stories such as the AKUH and SIUT, which set standards for others to follow. Those who want to deliver should continue their struggle, no matter what the naysayers say, he added.
Dr Zaidi said that the private sector has been involved in the health and education sectors for some time. He said that 60 per cent of the population in Pakistan is urban but the urban services are available for only those who can afford them. He also pointed out that there is little research in the country's health sector. "The real challenge is outreach," pointed out Hans Kedzierski, AKUH chief executive officer. He said that there is diversity everywhere in Pakistan. "Pakistan is a great country," he said, predicting that the generation striving for the progress of the country will definitely deliver.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2015.