Addressing the first convocation of University of Health Sciences (UHS) yesterday, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif said that the Punjab government had made record budgetary allocation for health sector in the current financial year. Where that money is being spent however, is a different matter. The year 2015 has not been any better for Pakistan in terms of improving access to quality healthcare.
The Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC), the body that accredits medical colleges, doctors and other medical professionals has been rocked by corruption allegations and in the wake of Dr Asim Hussain’s arrest. Irregularities in the registration of medical colleges and accreditation of doctors have also been emphasised in judicial probes. If the main body responsible for running the healthcare related affairs of the country is riddled with corruption, one has no hopes of improvement in the situation overall.
As far as building infrastructure is concerned, projects like the DHQ Hospital in Mandi Bahauddin, a 258-bed project, has been under construction for a decade, with no immediate hopes of completion. The estimated period of construction was two years. Reportedly, the Punjab government did not release half of the funds it committed to and so the work stopped. Under the Annual Development Programme 2014-15, the Punjab government allocated Rs925.68 million for the establishment of the hospital but no work has been initiated on the ground.
The Mother and Child Hospital project in Rawalpindi is another example of squandered funds as the project has been in limbo for the last 10 years.
An official of the district government said the project worth Rs4 billion was launched in 2006 on a 200-kanal land but construction work had not yet been completed despite utilisation of Rs2 billion. It now lays a dilapidated building, used as shelter by drug addicts.
Healthcare has not been a priority for any government so far to the point that Pakistan has been unable to eradicate polio, children still die in urban hospitals due to lack of basic immunisations and diseases like Hepatitis and Coronary disease have become epidemics. If this is not a cry for help, then what is?