In Pakistan, issues pertaining to social welfare have historically attracted little effort or attention by those in power. This includes health; never forgotten during election campaigns as empty promises are made to the masses who are sick of the broken system. But, of course, once in power, commitments are forgotten, priorities change and the duty to provide solutions for life-threatening problems is left for another day. Unfortunately, that day never arrives. Similar to education, health care in the country shares several characteristics with an apartheid system. Only those with sufficient resources reserve the right to satisfactory services. A system, in which money buys life and lack of it means suffering and death, can be described as anything but moral.

The problems start at the very top with the poor allocation of funds for health in the annual budget. Too little is set aside to tackle an issue so huge. To make matters worse, already severely limited funds are plundered and mismanaged. After the hungry fellows have taken a good bite and temporarily satisfied their ever-growing appetite, millions of patients are forced to survive (not to be taken literally) on crumbs. Favorites are appointed as doctors and management staff in public hospitals across the country. Unsurprisingly, several cases each year reveal doctors’ negligence. Of course, the culprits are almost never held accountable. Other than doctors, other key aspects of health care include medicine and equipment. There is no reason to feel pride on these two fronts either. Unavailability of medicines in public hospitals is a recurring phenomenon. Therefore, patients are required to pay some (not to be taken literally) extra bucks to buy health from the private store next door. And every now and then, a fake batch of medicines claims the lives of unsuspecting patients who wander in hoping to feel better. Again, loss of life fails to prompt action. Basic equipment required to carry out routine tests remains “out of work”, condemned to its ill fate, never to be repaired or replaced. And what about emergencies such as the current H1N1 virus outbreak? A system which fails to cope with routine matters cannot be expected to perform under special circumstances. Balochistan, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or Punjab – the story remains largely unchanged. To identify the fundamental problem; no health care mechanism which puts the patient at the very bottom of the priority list can function effectively. Pour in all the money there is, hire as many doctors as possible, it still won’t work.