PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is extending Sehat Sahulat Programme to OPD patients in four designated districts for free diagnostic and treatment services with the financial assistance of the Government of Germany.

“The German government has agreed to spend Euros 9.4 million over a period of two years to provide free treatment facilities to the people visiting the outpatients departments in the four districts — Malakand, Mardan, Kohat and Chitral,” Dr Riaz Tanoli, head of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sehat Sahulat Programme, told Dawn.

He said that the government in collaboration with Germany started the programme in those districts in 2015 for hospitalised patients under which three per cent population was provided free treatment.

“As the initiative proved very successful in provision of free services to the patients on the basis of which provincial government started its own Sehat Sahulat Programme (SSP) and started provision of services to 51 per cent people in August 2016,” said Dr Riaz.

Germany providing financial assistance to the programme in Malakand, Mardan, Kohat and Chitral

He said that the initiative was latter extended to 64 per cent population after one year and it was going to cover the entire population of the province from the next fiscal year.

“So far, the government has spent over Rs5 billion on free treatment of 190,000 patients under the SSP. We are making preparations for coverage of the entire population,” he said.

Dr Riaz said that SSP had been extending free investigative and treatment services to only hospitalsied patients at about 85 government and private hospitals designated throughout the province but the latest initiative would enable people to get free OPD services in four districts.

He said that the programme, to be launched in the designated districts next year, could be extended to other parts of the province. However, the free treatment for outdoor people would be provided on co-payment system and the patients would be required to bear 50 per cent of the cost.

“The SSP is cashless treatment system because the patients don’t pay a single penny in lieu of the services they get in the hospitals,” said Dr Riaz.

The German organisation is in the process of sorting out modalities in consultation with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department to start the programme. An insurance firm will be selected by Germany to run the programme.

Dr Riaz said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would be the first province to pioneer the free OPD treatment programme in the country. He hoped that given the past four-year experience, it would make strides and possibly would be replicated in the whole country.

“SSP has also been replicated in Punjab and parts of Sindh and Balochistan,” he said. He added that the OPD programme would benefit all people, especially those with chronic ailments as they would get free diagnostic services in their nearest hospitals.

“As time passes, the programme gets better because we are learning from experience and correct the processes and procedures to enable more people to benefit from the free treatment initiatives,” said Dr Riaz.

He said that the German government would implement the programme on the advice of Oxford Policy Management in close coordination with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2019