Pakistan’s public health sector is a story of dismay and a recent attempt to bring this issue to attention was made by the Pakistan Young Pharmacists Association They urged the government to fill 6000 vacant pharmacist positions in public sector hospitals.

This issue is not recent and was also highlighted last year on the World Pharmacist Day. Back in 2012, when 100 patients died due to a drug scam, the Supreme Court ordered posting on at least one clinical pharmacist to 50 beds in public hospitals. To overcome the challenge of filling the vacant positions, the Supreme Court also advised the establishment of an Adverse Drug Reaction (ADR) system. This system would have helped in the appointment of clinical pharmacists, who at this point are reduced to working as receptionists due to lack of recognition and acknowledgement of their work.

The irony however, is that despite such orders, the notification remained stuck in the official files because apparently patient care is not of much interest to them. This has been the case with successive governments that have been coming into power. Only four government hospitals in Punjab have sufficient number of pharmacists working for them and they were appointed by PML-Q during their government.

Even in comparison with KP and Balochistan, Punjab lags far behind. The salary structure offered by the KP and Balochistan government is much better than what their Punjab counterparts offer. The appointment of pharmacists in Balochistan is way more than in Punjab, and the Balochistan government even offers non-practicing allowance and health professional allowance to the pharmacists.

The Supreme Court addressed the issue back in 2012. Six years have passed and no action has been taken. Punjab is the most populated province of the country, and since PML-N is often criticised for having Punjab centric policies, it is a highly disappointing situation that the province is facing.