Islamabad - The government is contemplating to establish Islamabad Health Authority to spruce up the working of health institutions operating in the Islamabad capital territory and the areas directly functioning under the federal government’s control.

Sources in the government informed The Nation that on the directions of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the ministry of planning, development and reforms is working out a plan for the establishment of the proposed Islamabad Health Authority and the ministry would present the proposal to the prime minister for approval once it would be finalised.

As part of the bringing overall improvement in all the sectors, the ministry of planning, development and reforms is working on a comprehensive plan and ‘Health Sector Reforms’ is one of the areas under its focus.

The ministry of planning and development had arranged a series of meetings and forums to take input of technical people with the aim to come up with proposals for bringing about radical changes in the health sector which is in extremely poor state right now, a source in the government informed.

In a recently held forum on the subject, the speakers, most of whom having rich background in dealing with the management of health sector at various levels, suggested that first of all the government should enhance the spending on health sector up to 4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and gradually increase it in coming years to meet the basic needs to provide adequate health cover to the people.

According to the available statistics, Pakistan is spending 2.8 per cent of GDP on health sectors but some independent observers including WHO consider the actual spending on health sector is a bit less than the figure and pilferage and misuse of funds usually brings it down to less than 2 per cent of GDP, a health sector expert said, adding that the allocation of 4 per cent of GDP and strict administrative control would definitely give a boost to the available health facilities in the public sector.

The forum organised by ministry of planning and development was addressed by by Najeeb Aslam, Dr M Usman Awan (group coordinator), Dr Syed Tahir Hijazi, Abeeha Islam, Farhan Aziz Khawaja, Fazal–ur-Rahman, M Zafar Khan, Nasrullah Tareeen, Hassan Mughal, Asif Shafiq Lakhvi and Abdul Qadir.

The participants of the forum recommended that the future health policy should focus on preventive medicine and create awareness among the public how they could keep themselves safe from various diseases by just adopting certain preventive measures.

It was further proposed that funding for vertical health programmes should be provided by the federal government for special territories such as Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

To further upgrade the dental health facilities across the country, the participants of the forum had recommended to the federal government to increase the duration of bachelor of dental surgery (BDS) to 5 years and add seven new subjects including behavioural health, bioethics and research methodology to its curricula.

They recommended that any public sector dental institution should be given the pilot programme to incorporate 5 years BDS education, besides changing the nomenclature of BDS to DDS (doctor in dental surgery).

The speakers said that dental education in Pakistan is not at par with international standards; hence they suggested that Dental Council should be separated from PMDC because internationally DCs are separate and separate budget of 1 per cent in PSDP be earmarked.

They recommended that any public sector medical university in Pakistan having its own constituent dental college can be give a pilot project to start a five year BDS programme & introduce 7 new courses from 2016 or 17 onwards.

Earlier, the federal government launched the Prime Minister’s National Health Programme in Islamabad on January 01, 2016 to ensure medical treatment for families living below the poverty line. The scheme offers free of cost treatment for ailments such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, Burma and RTA (life and limb saving treatment, implants, prosthesis).

It will also cover end-stage renal diseases and dialysis, chronic infections (hepatitis), organ failure (hepatic, renal, cardiopulmonary) and cancer treatment (chemo, radio and surgery).