The federal government’s approval to increase the allowances and stipends of nurses and nursing students in the federal capital must be appreciated. The salaries of nursing staff of the federal capital were lagging behind other provinces and it is positive that the government is looking after healthcare workers at a time when parity with the rest of the country needs to be restored.

However, terming the move “the first drop of rain” – as dubbed by the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Zafar Mirza – implies that more measures to improve the lives and work of medical staff in the capital are in consideration. If that is the case, the government must announce its plans and not leave the staff of hospitals guessing with regards to what comes next. In order to dispense their duties fully, apart from salary raises, focusing on improving training and decreasing the workload by increasing the total number of medical workers in both Islamabad and the rest of the country is also imperative.

The medical workers of the country are overburdened and underpaid – even after this move to increase allowances in the capital – and the healthcare system is adversely affected as a result. Beyond the federal and provincial capital, the dispensation of health services across the country is in severe need of improvement and the government must also roll out initiatives to improve healthcare in areas that need it the most.

Apart from the human element, hospitals being upgraded to meet international healthcare standards is also something the government needs to be considering as part of improving the healthcare system. Previous governments have tended to focus on major cities only, the current Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government must not fall into the same trap and work with provincial governments to dispense quality healthcare in far-flung areas; Thar is a prime example of an area that needs improved healthcare facilities immediately. The news of eight infants dying in a Sahiwal hospital in just 24 hours due to a malfunctioning air conditioner tells us of the horrific cost we incur each time a lapse in healthcare services takes place.

There is only so much that the limited number of healthcare staff – both doctors and nurses – can do under the current circumstances. It is hoped that a clear healthcare policy for the remainder of PTI’s term is something that the government is drafting and is looking to improve the healthcare system holistically instead of just offering paltry increases to nurses as a stop-gap measure.