ISLAMABAD-The plan of upgradation of the Basic Health Units (BHUs) and Rural Health Centre (RHC) will take almost a year to be executed, The Nation learned on Tuesday.

The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) had announced upgradation of the BHUs and RHUs to reduce the burden on tertiary hospitals including Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) and Federal Government Services (FGS) Polyclinic hospital.

The officials informed The Nation that strengthening of the universal health coverage system was one of the prime goals of the government, however the plan will take almost a year to be completed due to shortage of staff. Spokesperson Ministry of NHS Sajid Hussian Shah while talking to The Nation said that upgradation of 16 BHUs and three RHUs will be completed till end of this year.

He said that the project has been inaugurated and will finish till end of the year, adding that Shah Allah Dittah RHU will be upgraded to a community centre to cater the requirements of maximum population of rural area.

According to the district wise population of the city, around one million (991,747) population of the city is residing in rural areas and is dependent for healthcare on RHUs and BHUs.

The spokesperson said that ministry is strengthening the universal health coverage system and is following the Iranian health infrastructure system.

He stated that officials of health ministry of Pakistan also paid visit to Iran for this purpose and Iranian counterparts have also visited Pakistan for this purpose.

“Iranian primary healthcare system is very strong and government will implement it in federal capital,” he said.

He added that Community Centre Shah Allah Ditta will be upgraded up to 200 beds and capacity of Barakahu BHU will be increased up to 50 beds.

Sajid Shah said that Maternity Child Centres (MCC) of RHUs and BHUs will be upgraded as the rural population face major problems in maternity issues.

He also maintained that the rural population of the city living below poverty line will be awarded with Sehat Sahulat cards and will also be able to get medical treatment at empanelled hospitals.

The NHS spokesperson informed that 85,000 people in federal capital have already been awarded with Sehat Sahulat cards. Sajid Shah said that though primary healthcare infrastructure is facing shortage of staff, but the ministry will overcome this issue during one year.

Primary healthcare set-up of the city was also working at half of its strength as it is facing shortage of 18 posts of medical officers and 36 positions of other staff.

There are 32 sanctioned posts of medical officers in RHUs and BHUs of the city.

While the health system also works to safeguard the communities of emerging diseases like dengue fever, bird flu, swine flu, chikungunya and the re-emerging communicable diseases like TB, measles, pneumonia and other vaccine preventable diseases. It was informed that 12 medical officers and post-graduate trainees of PIMS and one of Federal General Hospitals (FGH) were posted in 12 BHUs and one dispensary. PIMS was already facing shortage of doctors and recently 285 medical officers had been recruited to meet that shortage, however the ministry transferred 13 of them to primary healthcare set-ups in a sudden move.

The city’s major hospitals including PIMS and Polyclinic hospitals were overburdened with patients’ influx, and the primary health centres of the city were also facing shortage of the staff.