PESHAWAR, Feb 24: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Department has decided to regularise the services of existing 13,200 lady health workers (LHWs) and appoint 3,600 more to improve health indicators at the grassroots and stem the tide of avoidable deaths, officials said.
They said that following devolution about 17 departments, including health, became responsibility of the province and it was required to absorb the programmes that were financed by the federal government before the passage of 18th Constitution Amendment.
The government had not only started work on regularisation of the LHWs, but also planned to increase their number from the current 13,200 to 16,800 to reduce maternal and infant mortality rate and improve contraceptive prevalence at the grassroots, they said.
The KP health department drafted a new health policy where all the programmes would function under the direct supervision of director-general health, who will be implementing policies formulated by the secretariat.
Henceforth, the federal government projects maintained its offices at the provincial level, but at grassroots their staff worked under the district, tehsil and local health authorities.
To cope with the situation, the government’s new policy seeks to give lead role to the LHWs with a view to improving health coverage at the union council level from existing 56 per cent to 80 per cent in the fulfillment of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals by 2015, according to relevant officials.
The provincial department will be required to finance the Lady Health Workers (LHWs), Maternal and Neonatal Child Health, Nutrition (MNCH), TB, Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) till the announcement of next National Finance Commission Award due in 2015.
According to evaluations by independent monitors, the LHWs have played instrumental role in health delivery throughout the country since start of the programme in 1995. “It was due to this reason that we have strongly recommended to the government to recruit 3,600 more LHWs to meet the MDGs,” they said.
Service rules were being made for the LHWs. They would be deployed in BHUs so that patients in the community could reach them conveniently. According to their job description, LHWs can be recruited only in the union council where they live.
They would continue to work in their homes and provide vaccination and prenatal checkups besides advising people on hygiene and other health matters.
The United Kingdom and Australian governments have pledged Rs8.258 billion to assist the provincial health department in integrating the projects into regular health system after the devolution, the officials said.
The health department also sought of donors to meet the cost after the stoppage of federal amount by due time and the Department for International Development (DFID), and Austria government pledged Rs6.168 billion and Rs2.09 billion respectively for the integration of these projects into regular health system.
These programmes hadn’t benefited the province’s population to a desired level and therefore it was decided to restructure the health department while integrating the projects into it. Over 45,000 employees of health department are unable to provide services to the people and only 25 per cent population visited the government hospitals.
“A PC-I has been sent to the chief minister for approving its integration into the health department. The department also required Rs5 billion apart from the donors’ assistance to meet the cost of integration programme and filling technical and financial gaps in the existing system,” the officials said.
The health department is also integrating the EPI, nutrition and MNCH programmes into a regular structure.
Till that the federal government will continue to give Rs1.5 billion annually for next two years to run these programmes after which the province will own them.