Punjab health sector needs major boost- more budget, more facilities

Punjab health sector needs major boost- more budget, more facilities

By M Sohaib Khalid

LAHORE, Jul 30 (APP):Heath and Education are among the basic pillars of a society used to gauge how much a government is concerned about the welfare of the masses and the future of generations which is why most of democracies prioritize these areas by spending a decent amount of their GDPs.

Unfortunately, Pakistan is lacking behind both sectors with meager resources and fast-growing population.

Punjab being the most populous province of the country with more than 127.4 million population only has a total of 90 tehsil-level (THQs), 34 district-level (DHQs) and 23 teaching hospitals besides a number of basic health units and dispensaries.

Medical experts believe that hospitals across the province are facing a dire shortage of essential medical supplies, staff, and equipment. As a result of this shortage, the healthcare sector is overburdened and compromised as far as the provision of healthcare facilities is concerned.

According to a report published by the Punjab government, “About 542 beds are available for every one million patients at four major medical facilities operating under the provincial administration. Due to the shortage of beds, sometimes two patients are allotted a single bed in the public sector hospitals, as these health facilities are unable to refuse any patient admission who approaches them.”

When APP asked Dr Tariq Shaheen, an assistant professor at Jinnah Hospital Lahore, about the reason for hospitals being overburdened, he said a large number of patients contact doctors when the first phase of their disease had already passed and the patient’s condition had deteriorated to the extent that they needed treatment for a longer period of time.

He urged citizens to contact a doctor at an early stage of any disease so that complications could be reduced and treatment could be provided to them as outdoor patients.

Several patients complained about delays in treatment, especially in those cases which required surgery.

“I came to the Mayo Hospital Lahore for gallstone treatment, but doctors are just giving me medicines, instead of conducting an operation,” a patient Abdul Aziz from Renala Khurd complained.

According to the Department of Punjab Primary and Secondary Healthcare sources, “About 4000-5000 patients come to government hospitals and clinics every day, but their capacity to cater to them is limited.”

Dr Izhar Chaudhry, a representative of doctors, said the population growth rate for the past 12 years was a whopping 25 percent, but the hospital network had been expanded by only 18 percent.

In such a situation, where lesser healthcare facilities had been established, it was unable to provide facilities to patients, he added.

Justifying the delay in the treatment of patients, the medical representative argued that hospitals were not receiving adequate funds from the government.

“All doctors would want to serve their patients dutifully, but lack of funds means that there has been a shortage of medicines and other paraphernalia, resulting in an unwarranted burden on the healthcare system,” said Dr Salman Kazmi, General Secretary Pakistan Young Doctors Association.

Due to the shortage of essential medical supplies, medicine, and equipment, the government hospitals were unable to provide quality health treatment, the doctor added.

However, the incumbent caretaker provincial government claimed, “It is focusing on providing the best healthcare facilities at public sector hospitals.”

The caretaker provincial government has formed two different departments to overcome difficulties and reduce the burden on the health sector.

The Punjab Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department are responsible for health management, epidemic control, government health policies implementation, data compilation, procurement and provision of medicines in hospitals, and administrative matters of the Health Department.

The Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Department is responsible for medical professionals’ qualification, procurement of essential goods for hospitals and medical colleges, registration of medical staff, medical education and institutions, nursing matters, Medical and Dental Council Ordinance, and several other related matters.

The Punjab government has recently allowed social security hospitals to provide healthcare facilities to common citizens so that the burden on the public sector hospitals could be reduced. Twenty-two more social security hospitals would be established in the province in the near future.

Caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Syed Mohsin Naqvi, in a meeting, said hospitals would be shifted from old buildings to new ones.

Biomedical machines, medical equipment, and other facilities would also be provided in major hospitals, he promised.

Moreover, 60 basic standard medicines would be provided in seven major teaching hospitals of Punjab, while 25 essential medicines would be provided in all cardiology hospitals.

“With the fast-growing population of the country, there is a need to spend plenty more on the healthcare sector and these facilities should reach out to rural areas as well where there is a severe dearth of doctors and hospitals which ultimately put the burden on health facilities in major cities,” he added.

APP Services