ISLAMABAD: The prime minister health cards scheme, ‘cashless health services to the poor’ is failing to address the greater problem of healthcare due to its flawed policies and the poor infrastructure of hospitals in different cities, learnt Pakistan Today.
The prime minister’s card which will be available to all those who earn less than Rs 200, will allocate Rs 50,000 to an individual for common illnesses such as flu, cough and hepatitis.
Furthermore, it will set aside Rs 300,000 for more serious conditions and dangerous diseases like heart diseases (angioplasty/bypass), last stage kidney disease, chronic infections (hepatitis/HIV), organ failure (liver, kidney, heart, lungs), and cancer.
In the policy of the PM health cards scheme, conditions of admission have been imposed for the poor patients. It does not include those patients who have aforementioned diseases at an initial stage. Since this programme is for poor people, they need it more for the treatment at initial stages than at a final stage, it has been observed.
Secondly, the structure of hospitals, as well as, a shortage of doctors and sub-standards facilities do not support this programme at all.
Service centres for the treatment of this scheme include private and government hospitals. The private hospitals often prolong the patients stay to gain maximum benefits from the health cards.
As per documents available with Pakistan Today, according to this, 3.1 million families in 40 districts living below the poverty line of Rs 200 per day have access to the cashless healthcare service package of 0.3 million rupees per family per year, available in both public and private hospitals through health cards issued by a highly transparent mechanism.
The documents further state that after the success of phase 1 the government will work on the countrywide expansion of this programme.
The first phase included Rs 9.1 million. This phase in its initiation also faced serious setbacks due to the lack of health infrastructure in both Punjab and Balochistan.
For the launching of this programme, a survey was conducted at different backward cities on the directions of the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP). The purpose was to identify deserving patients for these health cards, however, due to the poor strategy of the NGO which conducted the survey, the project did not go through a transparent mechanism and people who are not eligible for the health cards are enjoying the facility at a large scale now.
In many cities including Layyah, protests are being carried out against the administration of the NGO that conducted the survey as the salaries of staff that had been hired for the survey have not been paid as yet.
According to Shifa International Liver Transplant Department Head, Dr Faisal Saud Dar, about 3,000 to 4,000 people of Pakistan need a liver transplant per year as they reach the End-Stage Liver Disease (ESLD) caused by the diseases of HCV and HBV.
He further stated that according to the Pakistan Medical Research Centre (PMRC), almost 2.5 to 3 million people will be in need of a liver transplant within the next ten to twenty years.
Ex-president Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), Dr Javed Iqbal Kanjal while talking to Pakistan Today said that this programme is good for nothing since the infrastructure of our country’s hospitals is exceptionally weak.
“The centres fixed for the treatment of the poor on behalf of the PM health cards have been facilitated to their relatives or friends in private hospitals”, he alleged.
While talking to Pakistan Today, PRO Minister NHSR&C, Sajid Hussain Shah said that the doctors decide the admission of a patient at a hospital since the final decision has been left to them.
In response to another question, he said that if the amount in the cards dries up and the patient still needs treatment then a doctor decides the amount that is further needed in addition with a report so that it made sure that the amount is provided from the department of Bait-ul-mal.