Rawalpindi-Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Zafar Mirza dispelled the impression that government was hiding Coronavirus cases due to ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL) T-20 matches and said there was no alarming situation in Pakistan.

“The federal government did not take any decision to close down the educational institutions in fear of Coronavirus, however, the provincial governments are independent to take decisions in their respective areas,” he said while talking to newsmen on Wednesday after attending two-day conference on family medicine titled “Building Primary Care Capacity: Pakistan’s Critical Need.” The conference was organised by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) in collaboration with the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) and Rawalpindi Medical University (RMU).

On the occasion, RMU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Muhammad Umar, Chairman HEC Tariq Banuri and President APPNA Dr Naheed Usmani were also present.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Zafar Mirza said that the authorities have conducted the medial tests of some 200 suspects of Coronavirus while five patients are recovering rapidly in the hospitals.

He said the government has installed very effective screening system on all the airports of country to detect the suspects of Coronavirus. He said those returned from China and Iran should keep a vigil over themselves for 15 days and should contact immediately with doctors in case of any symptoms of Coronavirus.

Earlier, Dr Zafar Mirza, while addressing the conference, said that the country direly needed to enhance primary healthcare to improve the poor health statistics.

He stressed the need for measures to promote family medicine by faculty development, medicine development, policy reform, and targeted research.

“There are, on average, only three family physicians in the country to cater the needs of about 10,000 people. The numbers need to be enhanced and the bulk of general practitioners need additional training and incentives,” he said.

He added this is hard for the poor to pay for healthcare services at private hospitals. Pakistan is unfortunately near the top of the list of countries with negative health indications. He emphasised that efforts are needed to improve the quality of healthcare facilities at all levels. He regretted the unnecessary high rate of injections administered.

Dr Zafar Mirza said that the Prime Minister’s vision for universal health coverage has three major components. Every citizen must have access to health services, the government should pay the expenses on behalf of those who are unable to pay, and the quality of services should be enhanced.

“Government’s Health Reforms Agenda is aimed at ensuring the vision of Universal Health Coverage in order to deliver the essential health services to people,” he said.

He also informed that audience that the government, through the Pakistan Health Diaspora Initiative, Yaraan-e-Watan, is committed to providing overseas Pakistani doctors a platform to contribute to the country’s health sector.

“This initiative is meant to channelise their contributions. I greatly appreciate the initiatives taken by expatriate Pakistani doctors. I hope the conference will come up with valuable actionable items to promote the family medicine and resolve the healthcare issues in Pakistan,” he said.

In his remarks, Chairman HEC Tariq Banuri said that HEC is committed to the quality of medical education, while enhancing access.

Highlighting the importance of the conference, the Chairman said there is a need for an integrated approach towards investing in the healthcare system, including family health as well tertiary care in addition to environmental health, community health, and nursing.

Addressing the ceremony, President APPNA Dr. Naheed Usmani stressed the importance of healthcare for the achievement of health related goals. For this, Pakistan needs to train primary healthcare through a family medicine residency module and standard examinations.

Dr. Usmani said that APPNA has always been an active partner and supportive of initiatives to improve health outcomes as well as health education and research, and this conference builds upon this history of collaboration. Shedding light on the PM Healthcare Task Vision on Family Medicine, Dr. Faisal Sultan, the keynote speaker of the conference, said the family medicine requires quality health care, wherein, the curative and preventive healthcare are integrated.

He underlined the importance of effective local governance to develop a proper family medicine framework, monitor its functionality, and administer its needs.

RMU VC Prof Dr Muhammad Umar said RMU is the fastest growing medical university of Pakistan, adding that RMU had its humble beginning as Rawalpindi Medical College in 1974 and earned the status of a university in 2017. He said RMU is striving to achieve its goals in a systematic manner in line with its 15-year strategic vision, i.e. the RMU Vision 2033.