PESHAWAR: The government hospitals in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have failed to ensure the free treatment of patients under the Sehat Sahulat Programme by and large, benefiting private hospitals, which are also engaged for the Rs7 billion initiative.

The officials told Dawn that the public sector hospitals didn’t comply with the government’s directives in that respect prompting their doctors to show reluctance to treat patients.

On Feb 19, a meeting of the SSP’s steering committee asked public sector hospitals to follow the government’s policy regarding the treatment of the Sehat Insaf Card holders and give financial incentives to the doctors so that they take interest in the treatment of poor people.

It had also expressed concern about 75 per cent patients visiting private hospitals and 25 per cent turned up at the government health facilities, and ordered proper arrangements for the government hospitals to get a lion’s share from the SSP benefits.

The medical teaching institutions, including Lady Reading Hospital, Khyber Teaching Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar and Ayub Teaching Hospital in Abbottabad have a huge infrastructure but they have yet to attract a sizeable number of patients under the programme.

The hospitals have become screening grounds for the SSP patients investigated and later sent to private hospitals.

A senior surgeon said the patients were diagnosed with a specific disease and advised operations but they couldn’t be treated immediately as there were no incentives for the doctors.

As there’s a delay in treatment, the patients visit private hospitals located within a stone’s throw from the government’s hospitals where they underwent surgeries the same day because the surgeons get amount.

The government started the programme with an outlay of Rs5.4 billion covering 1.8 million families or 51 per cent population which was later increased to 2.4 million families with pledge of more than Rs3 billion per year.

Until now, Rs2.7 billion has been spent on the treatment of 100,000 patients, mostly in private hospitals. Health department has been trying to divert flow of patients to the government hospitals but after the implementation of the Medical Teaching Institutions Reforms Act, 2015, the teaching hospitals have got own boards of governors, which are calling the shots.

The sources said a patient being qualified for free treatment under SSP visited the Hayatabad Medical Complex with some cardiac problem in the first week of April, was sent to the nearby Rehman Medical Institute due to the unavailability of bed and was hospitalised on April 5.

They said the doctor discharged her without operation and was asked to pay Rs75,000.

The sources said under the programme, the families with less than $3 daily income were entitled to the treatment and her family took loan for her departure from the hospital.

They said there were other cases too where patients were made to pay at the private hospitals when it emerged that they don’t need operations and weren’t entitled to be compensated.

The sources said the SSP patients were entitled to free emergency treatment even if they didn’t have Sehat Insaf Cards at the time of admission but some of the diseases weren’t covered under the programme due to which the patients had to pay.

They said the authorities want patients to visit public sector hospitals to be able to get quality treatment and if a patient suffered from a disease not included in the SSP package, he or she wouldn’t be required to pay for stay at the hospitals.

The sources said the private hospitals would charge such patients anyway.

They said earlier in the year, the patients, who were referred from district hospitals to Peshawar, were asked to visit the government hospitals only with a view to enhance revenue. They however said as far as the doctors at public sector hospitals didn’t get financial benefits, those hospitals were unlikely to show progress under the SSP at a desired level.

Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2018

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