ISLAMABAD: After launching the Prime Minister’s National Health Programme (PMNHP) in Islamabad, Muzzaffarabad and Quetta, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has decided to inaugurate the scheme in five other districts within a month.

Their launch, however, could be delayed if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decides to inaugurate the schemes himself.

A ministry official said that they had launched the scheme in three districts and now had the necessary experience to introduce the programme in many districts at the same time.

“We have started arrangements to launch the programme in five districts,” he said, adding that the districts are Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan, three districts of Balochistan — Loralai, Lasbela and Kech — and Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab.

He explained that if the ministry was allowed to inaugurate the schemes on its own, then they could do so in all five districts within a month by holding inaugural ceremonies at the same time in all districts.

However, he said, if the prime minister decided to inaugurate these schemes like the last three, then there would be a delay. He added that due to the prime minister’s busy schedule, it would be impossible to get five different dates.“We have requested the prime minister to give us some dates in mid-June to inaugurate the scheme in Skardu,” said the official, adding that there were around 30,000 families in Skardu and around 40,000 families in Loralai who would be able to use the health scheme. The distribution of the health insurance scheme cards has started in both districts.

“Arrangements for the three other districts will also be finalised within a month,” said the ministry official.

NHS Secretary Ayub Sheikh told Dawn that the scheme will provide families with a daily income of less than $2 (Rs200) with free of cost access to secondary as well as priority diseases treatment, through insurance paid by the federal and provincial governments.

He said that they had learnt a lot from the first launch of the health insurance scheme. According to Mr Sheikh, they had planned to launch the scheme district by district. “We have requested the prime minister to give us a date to inaugurate the scheme in Skardu in mid-June,” he said, adding that as many as 3.1 million families from 23 districts of the country would be signed up for the programme by the end of the year.

The prime minister launched the programme on December 31, 2015, for Islamabad and described it as the first step towards making Pakistan a welfare state. The scheme will be expanded to all parts of Punjab, Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). The people of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will not benefit from the initiative as their provincial governments declined to become a part of the federal government scheme in which they would have to contribute.

According to the programme, a family will receive Rs50,000 for secondary care treatment which starts once a patient is hospitalised.

The scheme covers all kinds of diseases along with childbirth and maternity related complications. Each family can also receive treatment worth Rs250,000 under the category of priority diseases which include cancer, accident, burn injuries, diabetic complications, heart bypass and infections. In case of an emergency, the amount can be doubled and will be contributed by the Pakistan Baitul Mal.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2016

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