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KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly was on Friday informed that the immunisation coverage in the province had gone tangibly upward as Health Minister Azra Pechuho said modern methods were being employed to get 100 per cent coverage in the next five years.

Speaking during the debate prior to the next financial year’s budget, the minister said the immunisation ratio had been static at 29pc for the past several years and with the use of modern methods it had improved considerably.

“We are now covering 49pc immunisation in Sindh and we are confident that the remaining half of the targeted population would be covered in the next five years,” she said.

More than half of the non-development health budget of Sindh spent on Karachi

She said smartphone-based techniques were being fully utilised to keep the field staff connected with the policymakers and people in their respective regions to map the progress being achieved in coming weeks and months.

She said the health department had recently employed 900 vaccinators who would work especially in the regions where immunisation coverage was poor; those areas included the populations living on the fringes of Karachi.

She shared numerous figures reflecting material improvement in various segments of health including neonatal and maternal issues.

‘Karachi not being ignored in health sector’

The minister said that the repeated allegations that the provincial government was ignoring Karachi in the health sector were untrue.

“More than half of the non-development health budget of Sindh is spent on Karachi,” she said, mentioning the government’s grants to certain institutions — including Rs5.6 billion annual grant for the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, Rs1bn each for the National Institute of Child Health, Kidney Centre and Indus Hospital and Rs8bn for the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, Rs5bn of which were solely for the operations in Karachi.

Besides, she said the government was spending Rs75 million for maintenance and operation of the CyberKnife facility.

“The cliché that our great city is being deprived is clearly not the case,” the minister said, adding that 40 schemes in the annual development plan were for the sprawling metropolis.

Besides, she said radical actions had been taken for better health facilities in Thar where Mithi’s hospital had been upgraded while more than 20 incubators had been made available in the paediatric department.

She said hardship allowances, etc, were being given to the staffers working in the desert region.

Besides the existing 50 dispensaries were being upgraded to well-equipped facilities in Thar, which would be energised with solar power while community midwives would be trained to improve their capacity to take care of affairs in those facilities as most doctors did not want to serve there.

However, doctors would continuously monitor those centres and facilities would be there to transport pregnant women and other patients in distress to hospitals in the district for C-section and other treatments.

Dr Pechuho said children in Thar died for a variety of reasons which included their birth in infected environs, premature births, maternal malnutrition and virtually no birth spacing. Besides, early-age marriages also contributed to the problem.

She said the department was making available postpartum family planning where related commodities and training had been made available. “For healthy children and mothers, a minimum three-year space between births is necessary.”

Regarding the recent death of an infant because of wrong treatment in a private hospital in Karachi, the minister said: “We have taken action against those involved in negligence due to which baby Nashwa died.”

Report on woman’s death in govt hospital awaited

She said the hospital where Nashwa had been initially treated had been sealed. She added that at least 90 employees working in that hospital were not registered.

She said her office was waiting for the report vis-à-vis the death of a young woman in a government-run hospital in Korangi.

She said the department had sent a team to Larkana to investigate the spread of HIV/AIDS among children there. Besides, tests would again be conducted of those children for the lethal disease.

She added that AIDS was spreading quite rapidly in Pakistan and “we have to find a solution”.

The minister also spoke over the alarming prevalence of hepatitis B and C, adding that their ratios were alarming in Sindh.

‘PPP taking revenge from Karachi’

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Mohammad Hussain said Karachi had never voted for the Pakistan Peoples Party, claiming that it was the key reason the PPP “is taking revenge from the city”.

He said the demand of new provinces was not unconstitutional.

Mines and Mineral Development Minister Shabbir Bijarani said every member should highlight the issues of one’s respective constituency with grace and decorum.

He criticised Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s federal government, which he said had failed miserably in the promises it had made in the past.

PTI’s Umer Umari said action should have been taken by the health department before the loss of precious lives as prevention was better than cure.

He said that the Sindh government was protesting against the cut of funds by the Centre but it had failed itself to achieve its target in tax collection.

Aijaz Bukhari of the PPP said the opposition should also speak about getting Sindh’s rights from the Centre.

Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s Mohammad Qasim said government-run schools were in a shambles in his constituency where students were compelled to sit on the floor and buildings could collapse at any time.

‘Sindh will never be divided’

Fisheries and Livestock Minister Bari Pitafi said the provincial government had revived the Keenjhar Lake and released a large number of fish.

He criticised the call for a new province by the MQM-P member saying Sindh would never be divided.

MQM-P’s Hashim Raza said his party was not against the 18th Amendment but wanted its implementation in letter and spirit with powers and resources devolved to the lowest level.

PTI’s Arsalan Taj said a hospital in his constituency was non-functional for the past several years.

Earlier, when mikes of several members were found out of order, Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani said cables had been cut by mice in the hall and soon the problem would be solved. However, many members spoke by holding wireless microphones in their hands.

A notification issued earlier on Friday by the assembly’s secretariat said passes of all galleries barring the media had been cancelled citing “security reasons”.

The house extended the pre-budget debate for another day till Monday when chief minister, leader of the opposition, ministers and leaders of parliamentary parties will speak.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2019