PM pledges universal health coverage in Punjab, KP

Updated 29 Oct 2020

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Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at the Insaf Doctors Forum meeting at Aiwan-i-Iqbal. — DawnNewsTV
Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks at the Insaf Doctors Forum meeting at Aiwan-i-Iqbal. — DawnNewsTV

• Says industry to be incentivised to reduce drug prices

LAHORE: Prime Minis­ter Imran Khan has announ­ced offering universal hea­lth coverage to everyone in Punjab and Khyber Pakh­tun­khwa through the Sehat Insaf card within a year in phases.

The prime minister also announced incentivising the country’s pharmaceutical industry to expand its economy of scale leading to lowering of prices of medicines besides generating foreign exchange through exports.

Speaking at the Insaf Doctors Forum meeting at Aiwan-i-Iqbal on Wednes­day, Mr Khan said the state of Pakistan wanted to stand behind every segment of society to offer it universal health coverage and simultaneously propel the expansion of healthcare facilities in Punjab and KP.

Beginning with empowering the vulnerable, the prime minister said KP had agreed to offer health cards to every citizen, but Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid was reluctant to commit to achieving the gigantic task considering the large population of the province. “I have asked Dr Yasmin Rashid to implement the provision of health card to everyone in Punjab in phases to bring about a revolution in the healthcare system of the country,” he added.

The availability of Sehat Insaf card to everyone would drive the private sector to set up hospitals, Mr Khan said, adding that the government would facilitate the entrepreneurs by offering Evacuee Trust land on concessional rates and duty-free import of medical equipment.

Referring to corruption and problems in the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap), Mr Khan regretted that the country’s pharma exports were negligible as compared to India’s $40 billion. Acknowledging the massive potential of Pakistani pharma industry, the premier said it would be incentivised as its expansion would lead to lowering of medicine prices in the country.

He called for implementation of the Medical Teaching Institutions (MTI) reforms in letter and spirit to ensure that good performers got incentives and those below average punished. Asserting that the reforms were not aimed at privatisation of public healthcare facilities instead to ensure autonomy for running hospitals in a merit-based system, Mr Khan said it took a lot of time and effort to implement healthcare reforms in KP because ‘mafias’ did not let the authorities enforce the government’s carrot and stick policy.

While referring to the ‘mafia’ in hospitals, the prime minister called the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) leaders “pickpockets” who had eaten away the country’s resources and led it to the brink of bankruptcy. “All these corrupt former rulers will be held accountable and the incumbent prime minister won’t bow to their blackmailing tactics,” he asserted.

He was of the opinion that Pakistan’s defining moment had come and reforms were the only way to strengthen all state institutions to take the country to new heights. Creating ‘Naya Pakistan’ was not like switching on a button, but a long-drawn reforms process through joint struggle of the government and people, he explained.

Expressing resentment against the blasphemous caricatures and Islamophobia in France, Mr Khan said such a situation was making the lives of Muslims in Western countries difficult. “I have written letters to heads of all Muslim states urging them to make the Western world realize the Muslim community’s sentiments regarding respect for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).”

MoU signed

Earlier, the prime minister attended a ceremony for the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Bank of Punjab and the Ravi Urban Development Authority (RUDA).

After the ceremony, RUDA chairman Rashid Aziz said that as per the MoU, the Bank of Punjab would not only help structure the authority, but also work as a financial consultant and negotiate terms and conditions with all foreign and local investors on behalf of the authority.

Local govt projects

The premier also reviewed development projects launched at the local government level as well as the proposed schemes.

The Punjab local government and community development department briefed the prime minister about the problems identified at district, tehsil and village level, and he accorded approval to implement projects of safe drinking water, sewerage, water treatment plants and upkeep of public parks.

Industrial development

The prime minister also chaired a meeting to push industrial development, particularly the cement industry, where he was briefed about the Special Economic Zones, small industrial enterprises, local and foreign investments and development of skilled youth.

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar, provincial ministers including finance minister Hashim Jawan Bakht and top civil bureaucrats attended the meetings.

Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2020