Healthcare shortcomings in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

  • KP still has big problems

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has always dubbed its new healthcare system, one of iys best initiatives. The provincial government, in power since 2013, has boasted about its healthcare system. Before 2018, the claims by the PTI had painted a picture, which showed that KP is spending way more than the rest of provinces on health, especially Punjab, where the government is only spending money on Metros, bridges and roads. However, data reveals that this is not true, and all the provinces are neck-to-neck in health sector spending. However, according a few health practitioners and observers, the programme which made KP stand out is its Sehat Sahulat Program.

Under this project, the provincial government has planned to provide Health Cards to every family of the province. Earlier this month, the Health Department of KP stated that it has accelerated the work on a mega project to provide the Health Cards to 6.5million poor and underprivileged families.

“The First phase of Sehat Insaf Cards plus programme has already been started in six districts of Malakand Division and its second phase it would be extended to other divisions by 31 January 2021, for which all arrangements are being completed,” an official said. The latest initiative was launched by Prime Minister Imran Khan in Swat on November 6.

Observers underline that the recent incident shows that the KP’s healthcare system still has serious shortcomings. The PTI government has always advertised it as Pakistan’s best system. However, the deaths of patients, shortage of oxygen and now the high price of cylinders show that the government needs to work on the health department.

The official further said that the under the healthcare services, 83 hospitals, including 59 private and 24 public, would offer free medical to card holders. “The number of the hospitals would be increased to 250 in the second stage,” he added.

The KP government has been advertising its health system as the best in Pakistan. However, many critics argue that this is not the case, and one recent incident exposed the loopholes.

On December 6, seven covid-19 patients died in the Khyber Teaching Hospital in Peshawar. The patients died after oxygen tanks from Rawalpindi failed to reach the hospital on time. One hospital official said, “Demand for oxygen inflated during winter and disclosed the administration was probing the late arrival of these tanks.”

Commenting on the incident, KP Health Minister Taimur Jhagra said, “There was an incident at KTH involving a shortage of oxygen supply. I have directed the BoG to conduct an immediate inquiry and take action within 48 hours.” The minister further said that government will immediately order its own independent inquiry into this.

Meanwhile, another media report stated that the situation could have been worse, if the young doctors had not risked their lives to save the patients.

A representative of young doctors said that at least 90 patients’ lives were in danger. He further said that young doctors shifted the coronavirus patients into the emergency unit because it had different supply system. Meanwhile, doctors, nursing staff, and patients’ relatives rushed to the plant because there were about 100 cylinders in the oxygen plant. “Everyone was pulling a cylinder; some were carrying them on their shoulders,” he said.

Over 200 patients, including 100 with covid-19, were left for hours with a limited supply of oxygen in the hospital. All the young doctors transferred patients on cylinders without caring for their lives and saved more than 80 precious lives, but unfortunately could not save some patients.

Meanwhile, prices of oxygen cylinders have been hiked in Peshawar. Citing the shortage, traders have increased the price of oxygen cylinder from Rs 850 to Rs 1,800. Several markets in Peshawar, including Karachi Market, Hospital Road, Khyber Bazaar and Hayatabad, have hiked the rates of cylinders.

Observers underline that the recent incident shows that the KP’s healthcare system still has serious shortcomings. The PTI government has always advertised it as Pakistan’s best system. However, the deaths of patients, shortage of oxygen and now the high price of cylinders show that the government needs to work on the health department.

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