ISLAMABAD: The Senate on Friday passed the Islamabad Healthcare Regulatory Authority (IHRA) Bill and one for granting university status to the Health Services Academy (HSA).

Both bills have already been passed by the National Assembly and will become law as soon as they are signed by the president.

Due to the IHRA bill, the federal government will for the first time have legal power to hold private hospitals and testing laboratories to account.

For the first time, govt will have legal power to hold private hospitals, labs to account

The bill will also empower patients to seek compensation against negligence by private medical facilities.

The IHRA will not only regulate medical facilities, it will also award licenses for particular services they offer, such as for conducing caesarean sections.

A number of complaints were received against hospitals and laboratories for failing to provide proper treatment to patients and for incorrect diagnosis but there is currently no body on the federal level to regulate hospitals and diagnostic laboratories.

The Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) started working on the bill in 2014 and tabled it before the federal cabinet for initial approval after which it was sent to parliament.

After making some amendments suggested by parliamentary standing committees, the bill was sent to the federal cabinet once again for final approval to table as a government bill in parliament.

The National Assembly passed the bill on Feb 20 this year and referred it to the upper house.

On Friday, Senate passed both bills which will now be referred to the president and will become law as soon as he signs them.

Talking to Dawn, a spokesperson for the ministry of NHA, Sajid Shah said though health professionals are regulated by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, health entities were not being regulated and that the establishment of the authority will enable the government to regulate homeopathic, ayurvedic and other health facilities.

He said the IHRA policy board will have nine members seven of whom will be elected and two will be nominated by the federal government. The post of the board’s chairman will be a ceremonial one and will not get a salary but the CEO will be appointed from the market and will be paid.

“IHRA will issue licences to health facilities for different services,” he said.

Mr Shah said the passage of the bill is a major success for the ministry and it is not easy to take such a decision in the presence of a powerful private health sector.

“NHS Minister Saira Afzal Tarar was eager to get the bills passed during her tenure and we finally achieved a milestone,” he said.

Mr Shah added that the law will promote patient safety and will provide a mechanism for banning quackery in all its forms and manifestations.

The bill for granting HSA the status of a university will help provide much needed trained healthcare professionals, he said.

Pakistan has a great dearth of public health professionals who are equipped to address the public health needs of the country.

HSA will be the only public health degree awarding institution with a strong link to the NHS ministry.

As a capacity building, policy and research institute, HSA is mandated to facilitate federal, provincial and other high level stakeholders in evidence informed policy.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2018