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PESHAWAR: More and more people are turning to the government’s medical teaching institutions of the provincial capital to avail themselves of free treatment under the Sehat Sahulat Programme.

The statistics show over 39,000 patients have benefited from the initiative since its launch in January this year.

In the last six months, the Lady Reading Hospital treated around 1,600 patients under the programme and Khyber Teaching Hospital, Hayatabad Medical Complex and Ayub Teaching Hospital 1,000 each.

Overall, the programme benefited 39,000 people at a cost of Rs778 million since January.

Initially, the public sector hospitals lagged behind the private facilities, because there was no mechanism for such patients and the administrations were in quandary over the new system but later the government’s hospitals devised mechanism.

The programme was launched by the government to provide free treatment to 1.8 million families at the cost of Rs5.4 billion over a period of two years.

The deserving people having one dollar earning daily were declared eligible on the basis of the data provided by the Benazir Income Support Programme. The families were given the Sehat Insaf Card with their each member entitled to free treatment up to Rs560,000.

Initially, a large number of patients visited private hospitals to avail themselves of prompt free services under the programme unlike the government hospitals, which didn’t have such services for them.

The programme is implemented though the State Life Insurance Corporation (SLC), which reimbursed the amount spent on the treatment of cardholders at the end of every month.

“We have established a single counter on which the hospital staff and SLC representatives sit together due to which the patients get rapid services,” LRH director Dr Khalid Masud told Dawn.

He said the hospital, which was very slow in initial days, began getting more patients as it had 27 specialties, which were more than those of other facilities in the province.

The LRH director said only the LRH had cardiovascular and cardiothoracic departments, which both received 200 patients.

About the reasons for slowness in early months of the programme, he said the hospital didn’t have a proper mechanism to facilitate patients as it had to provide the medicines and services, which didn’t affect the treatment of people admitted upon Rs20 OPD slip.

“Now, we have received Rs17 million in lieu of reimbursements from the SLC for treatment of patients on which we have purchased medicines which are provided exclusively to the patients hospitalised on the Insaf Card,” he said.

Dr Khalid said those patients were seen by doctors in institution-based practice (IBP) in the evening shift where the hospital had 51 specialists.

As of July 14, 6670 patients have visited of which 1,103 were operated upon for surgical, orthopedic, ENT (ear, nose and throat), eye, cardiovascular and cardio-thoracic problems, while 513 were hospitalised for medical diseases, he said.

LRH managing director Prof Mukhtiar Zaman Afridi said that the SSP hadn’t only benefited patients but was also a boost for IBP and major source of revenue generation. “As time passes, we are further streamlining the process to be able to provide services to more patients at the 1750-bed hospital,” he said.

Our operation theatre runs for general patients up to 2pm after which we entertain those admitted through IBP, including the SI cardholders, he said.

However, he pointed that the SSP wasn’t meant to provide free diagnostic and treatment to OPD patients and was meant for hospitalised ones.

SLC provincial medical officer Dr Manzoor Ali told Dawn that the corporation had enlisted 120 health facilities, including 41 public sector’s and 79 privately-owned, for the treatment of patients throughout the province.

“We are in the process of signing agreements with other health facilities so that the patients get treatment in their own districts,” he said.

Dr Manzoor said each hospital had got the information desk, where the cards of patients were checked before the start of their treatment.

He said recently, the government also approved a summary promising health insurance to 433,000 employees, who will pay monthly premiums ranging from Rs5,000 to Rs10,000 in line with their grades.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2017