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Dire and pressing issues subsist in Balochistan’s health sector

For obtaining health capital in Balochistan, there is a dire need to resolve basic and pressing issues related to the health sector. The health indicators in Balochistan like infant and mother mortality, are poorer than any other province. Major causes of water-related diseases include lack of water supply and sanitation facilities, absence of proper sewerage disposal, waste mismanagement and contaminated water. Malaria, Typhoid, Hepatitis, gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders are common in the province. These diseases can be prevented by facilitating the population with proper sewerage and sanitation disposal systems. In rural areas, the health status is relatively poor. Lack or absence of female health staff including female doctors in rural areas worsen the situation. In rural Balochistan, the health status is relatively poor. According to an estimate, there is only one doctor available for 7300 persons in average. An amount of Rs18 billion had been allocated for health sector in the Balochistan budget 2017-18 which had a five percent increase than the past year.

Though health sector in Balochistan remained the focus of welfare programs launched by every government in the past, but the leakage, misuse of public funds and irregularities in this sector caused no relief to the people in the most backward province. Balochistan Health Department is responsible for aims delivery of key health services to the people through hospitals, Basic Health Units (BHU) and Rural Health Centers (RHC). The Department operates more than 550 BHUs, 90 RHC’s and 89 Maternal Child Health Care Centers (MCH) to provide health services throughout to the province. The Provincial capital Quetta has five hospitals namely; Bolan Medical College (BMC), Civil Hospital, Fatima Jinnah Chest & General Hospital, Helper’s Eyes Hospital and Sheikh Khalifah Bin Zayed Hospital. The provincial health department has developed its Health Sector Strategy (2013-2018) to address challenges of service delivery, quality of care, lack of skilled health workforce, governance and regulation, and to ensure adequate health coverage for the poor and vulnerable populations in the province.

The key emphasis of the strategy is on integrating health services through a strong monitoring and evaluation system. The provincial government has committed funds from development partners, however, to ensure implementation, the strategy recommends an overall increase in health budget from 5 to 10 percent over the course of five years (2013-2018).

Both male and female medical staff always tend to live in Quetta, the provincial capital. Their concentration in Quetta and unwillingness to stay in rural areas affected the health status of rural population that have limited or no access to health services in their areas. The government must announce special and attractive packages for medical staff to serve in rural Balochistan.

The non-availability of medical staff, medicines and necessary facilities is the tragedy of the government hospitals in Balochistan. Most of the doctors serving in the Government hospitals have their private clinics as part time job. They earn a handsome amount as checkup fee at their clinics. Most of these doctors do not pay due attention to the patients who come to them in hospitals for treatment. There have been public complaints about shortage of drugs in government hospitals, lack of public health facilities, questionable doctor’s behavior with poor patients, and duty dereliction and absence of staff.

The business of establishing private hospitals has become highly profitable where the patients are treated as customers like in high profile hotels. There are many doctors who have opened their private hospitals where the patients are treated as scapegoats in accordance with their financial positions. The patients are looted through high room-charges at these hospitals. It has been observed that doctors unnecessarily recommend the patients to be admitted at the hospital for earning a healthy amount in the form of room charges and other services.

 

The private hospitals, clinics and laboratories have witnessed a mushroom growth in the provincial capital over a short period of last six years. Similarly more than 100 laboratories in Quetta are engaged in flourishing their business. Most of these laboratories lack the professional staff and essential diagnostic instrumentation. There always remains somewhat of a symbiotic alliance between the doctors of the private clinics and laboratory managers. The doctors send patients to their allied clinics for different medical test reports and they only believe and recognize the reports tested from their recommended laboratories. The lab owners give a due share to the doctors for sending the customers for them.

The government hospitals remain as the only option for the poor and downtrodden segments of society, who are compelled to face the arrogant behavior of the hospital staff, as they cannot afford the high expenses of private treatment and costly medication. There have been wide complaints about the shortage of medicines at the government hospitals and the poor patients have to purchase the costly medicines from the market.

The public complaints about dispensation of substandard medicines to the patients in government hospitals are common. Medicine Store Depot (MSD) provides the medicines of low standard companies. The purchased medicines are dumped in the go-downs and disposed of at a time when the medicines are about to expire. There is no doubt that most of the time medicines expire in these go-downs and are not delivered for the poor patients in the government hospitals in time.

The poor and down-trodden sections of society cannot afford costly treatment for deadly diseases like cancer. Most of third world countries have started health insurance programmes on the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO). The upcoming government after general elections must plan to provide health insurance cover to all people living below poverty line. A health insurance scheme for the people in different parts of the province should be launched in order to provide the people free healthcare facilities. The wider coverage of poor sections of society under health insurance scheme will be a great step towards making the country a welfare state. Under the scheme, people living below the poverty line should be able to get best possible treatment at government’s expense. Under the programme, the treatment of cancer, heart disease accidents, burns and other chronic disorders should be insured under the priority diseases category. No doubt, the health insurance scheme ensures poor and under-privileged citizens across the province get access to their entitled medical health care in a swift and dignified manner without any financial obligations.

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