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Breakthroughs take public hospitals to better common man services in Punjab

Number of beds has been increased and more medical treatment facilities are made available: Khawaja Salman
EMOs being posted in all districts hospitals; IT system introduced: Imran Nazir

To get better services, the Punjab government has bifurcated its health department into two separate departments — specialized health care and medical education department and primary and secondary healthcare department in the preceding fiscal year. As far as functional classification of Punjab health services is concerned, the overhaul includes allocation for hospitals, healthcare institutes, laboratories and other expenditure related to health administration, along with general administration.

The overall allocation for Punjab health sector has increased by 13 percent from Rs61,761.119 million during FY 2015-16 to Rs70,060.007 million for 2016-17. The major allocations related to health sector are for purchase of medicine, repair of machinery and equipment. In view of the importance of medical supplies, an effort has been made to provide maximum possible resources for purchase of medicines and other supplies for both the departments. Resultantly, the allocations for free medicines has been enhanced from Rs10,933.378 million in FY 2015-16 to Rs14,741.691 million in FY 2016-17. Similarly, Rs842.198 million has been allocated for the repair and maintenance. The allocation for general administration has been kept at Rs1,039.012 million. In addition, a sum of Rs1,000.000 million has been allocated to cater for emergencies and control of epidemics.

In primary and secondary healthcare sector, the focus is on revamping of all district headquarter hospitals and fifteen major tehsil headquarter hospital in Punjab. On the specialized healthcare side, in addition to provision of state-of-the-art medical facilities in tertiary care hospitals, a major initiative is that of Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute Lahore. In addition, the government has also initiated a comprehensive project of Clean Drinking Water (Punjab Saaf Pani Program) with an allocation of Rs30.0 billion for the next financial year.

Khawaja Salman Rafique, who belongs to a political family in Lahore and a younger brother of PML-N senior leader and Federal Minister for Railways, Khawaja Saad Rafique and Khawaja Imran Nazir a political activist and Punjab Minister for Primary & Secondary Health while talking to this scribe said of the number of positive developments in the Punjab health sector taken by the present government of PML (Nawaz).

In a chit chat, Khawaja Salman Rafique said the health department is going to make an agreement with the private sector teaching hospitals, to overcome the shortage of beds in government hospitals. Under the proposed agreement, private teaching hospitals attached with the medical colleges would be paid grant in aid for providing medical treatment facilities to the poor patients. Health department is in contact with various private teaching hospitals where the beds are in excess as compared to patients’ turnover.

According to him, the Punjab government is determined to provide best treatment and diagnostic facilities to the people. New hospitals are being constructed in different districts to reduce the workload on the tertiary care hospitals of Lahore. During the last three years bed capacity has been increased and a large number of beds have been included in the hospitals.

Khawaja Salman also said that the government has established half a dozen tehsil level hospitals in Lahore and upgradation of tertiary hospitals have also been carried out. The beds capacity of the hospitals, have also been enhanced.

He disclosed that new hospitals of 500 beds are under construction in Gujranwala, Sialkot, Sahiwal and Dera Ghazi Khan, which would be completed in a year through which 2000 beds would be included in the system. He said that a 500-bed hospital costs Rs4 to 5 billion. He said that the government is moving forward with a strategy to establish hospitals in other cities for providing treatment facilities to the people at local level.

On the other hand, the Punjab Minister for Primary & Secondary Health Khawaja Imran Nazir said that the target of revamping of 40 DHQ/THQ hospitals would be achieved during the current financial year. He said that Emergency Medical Officers (EMOs) are being posted in all the districts headquarter hospitals and their salary package would be upto Rs250,000 according to the distance and hard area. In the nearby district like Kasur and Sheikhupura, the salary package would be Rs10,000 whereas in far flung areas like Rajanpur it would be Rs250,000 per month special pay package.

According to Khawaja Imran Nazir, information technology would be used and android applications would be introduced to monitor the performance of the medical superintendents.

The Primary & Secondary healthcare system is being further strengthened to ensure healthcare facilities at the doorstep of the people. Apart from appointment of specialist doctors, Intensive Care Units (ICU) consisting of 5 beds would also be established in each DHQ hospital along with ventilators facility to provide best medical care to the serious patients at local level for saving their lives.

Khawaja Imran Nazir said that an integrated referral system has been introduced for which pool of ambulances has been set up under the control of rescue-1122 for immediate shifting of any serious patient from a small hospital to a tertiary level hospital for advanced treatment without any delay. He said that this pool has been set up at district level. The Minister directed to ensure biometric attendance of the staff, availability of medicines and maintain the standard of cleanliness in the hospitals.

In Punjab, there is focus on better service delivery in health sector. Operation theatres, Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and several medical departments including orthopedics, neurosurgery and plastic surgery are being upgraded, and modern equipment being provided to selected tertiary care hospitals in order to improve the delivery of health services.

While PM’s Health Insurance Scheme has already been launched in a few districts of Punjab, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has announced to expand the scope of this scheme to all the districts of the province. This scheme is an excellent step for providing treatment to less-privileged segments of the society and that program is expected to be speedily implemented in Punjab.

Quality treatment facilities were being provided to resource less persons through that program under which only hapless families should benefit from the fruits of that program in the real sense.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif already announced that the Punjab government would provide all out resources for forwarding National Health Insurance Program speedily.

If health sector projects move on as per plans, it is expected that sooner people would get much needed relief through public sector hospitals in Punjab.

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