Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza inspects an under-construction basic health unit in Kirpa. — Photo by the writer
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza inspects an under-construction basic health unit in Kirpa. — Photo by the writer

ISLAMABAD: After decades of debate and demands by health experts that the government should focus on primary healthcare, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) has finally started paying attention to the basic health units (BHUs) and rural health centres (RHCs).

Doctors from Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) and Polyclinic have been deputed at BHUs and RHCs and a referral system is also being prepared for patients.

Because of the new system, in future only critical patients would be treated at tertiary care hospitals.

This will make it possible for doctors in hospitals to pay more attention on patients suffering from complications.

Though a number of BHUs, dispensaries and RHCs were established over the years, a majority of them remained redundant and were without staff and facilities.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza after getting the status of minister of state for NHS, decided to focus on the primary healthcare units. As a majority of the primary healthcare units were in poor shapes, it has initially been decided to renovate them.

Dr Mirza while talking to Dawn said at the start of the month he visited the BHU at Kirpa and found that the building was incomplete and a lot was required to do there.

He said he had directed to renovate the unit which would be completed within a month.

“I am sure that it would become another model health unit in the federal capital and patients would prefer going there rather than visiting Pims and Polyclinic as staff has been deputed there,” he said.

Speaking at a press conference on Sept 24, Dr Mirza had said 16 BHUs had not been utilised for over a decade.

“We have decided to make them functional and depute doctors there from the tertiary care hospitals. A referral system is also being put in place to shift patients from there to tertiary care hospitals.”

Dr Mirza said BHU Shah Allah Ditta was also being made a model centre and would have a state-of-the-art building.

“There will be an X-ray machine and all facilities of blood tests. Even dental care will also be available at the BHU so patients will not have to go to the tertiary care hospitals,” he said.

According to a document available with Dawn, Dr Bilal Asif has been deputed at BHU Phulgran, Dr Mohammad Mushtaq at BHU Pind Begwal, Dr Sher Ali at BHU Kirpa, Dr Imran Zeb at BHU Gagri, Dr Saleem Khan Zimri at BHU Chirrah, Dr Nouman Khan at BHU Sohan, Dr Tayyab Azam at Humak Town dispensary and Dr Asif Chatta at BHU Jagiot.

Nasreen Begum, a resident of Kirpa, said local residents were quite happy that the BHU was being renovated.

“Majority of people cannot afford going to Pims and Polyclinic as it involves not only financial implications but also loss of time. We would take our patients to the BHU.

However, past experience shows that doctors come to BHUs for some time and then they reduce the time of their presence and finally disappear. After that staff also start remaining absent due to which people suffer,” she said.

Media coordinator Ministry of NHS Sajid Shah said the renovation of the Shah Allah Ditta BHU would be completed by October 30 after which people of the area would not need visiting Pims.

“It has been decided that by 2020 all the 16 BHUs will be renovated and provided with modern equipment to facilitate people in getting medical facilities at their doorsteps,” he said.

Pims Media Coordinator Dr Waseem Khawaja said though it was a tertiary care hospital, which meant it would treat only patients with severe complications, but the practice was just the opposite.

“Unfortunately, we get majority of patients having minor issues and most of our time and resources are spent on their treatment. If we get complicated cases not only the staff would be able to give them more attention and better treatment but their burden would also be reduced,” he said.

Dr Khawaja said over 100 babies born in the hospital daily due to which patients faced difficulties.

It would be better if only complicated cases are referred to Pims.

“However, a number of times patients were asked to visit primary healthcare units but they have confidence in Pims and come here for treatment,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2019