PESHAWAR: The health department has suspended free medical care under the Sehat Sahulat Programme in three private hospitals of the province over the patients’ complaints that they’re charged for tests before admission.

The hospitals are located in Malakand, Abbottabad and Swabi districts, officials told Dawn.

They said the hospitals were suspended for breaching the contracts the State Life Insurance Corporation had signed with them for free medication on behalf of the provincial government.

The officials said under the programme, a family was entitled to the maximum of Rs1 million investigations, admission and surgery in empaneled private and government hospitals but very few of them charged patients for investigations.

They said the feedback of the programme’s beneficiaries showed that more than 98 per cent of them were satisfied with services covered by the initiative.

Patients complained to dept they’re charged for tests before admission

“The government is offering different packages to 400 hospitals empaneled for free health initiative across the country. There are fixed rates for each of 158 health centres in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” an official said.

He said a mechanism was in place to check free services in hospitals under the programme.

The other officials said last year, the department suspended the SSP in around 10 hospitals, including reputed private ones, for ‘fleecing’ the people with Sehat Insaf Cards.

They said those hospitals readily admitted patients, whose treatment could get them more profit compared to those suffering from other diseases.

The officials said the private hospitals were the main beneficiaries of the SSP as they treated more patients compared with public sector facilities, so strict monitoring was there to address complaints of people regarding free services.

“This is the first action after the extension of the programme to the entire 7.2 million families of the province. For the last one month, the free services have been suspended in three hospitals. Further probe is in progress,” an official said.

He said on the directives of the health minister, the department was ensuring the provision of standard services to patients in line with the agreements made with health facilities.

“There will be an annual assessment of all empaneled hospitals. More will be added to the panel and those not fulfilling the terms and conditions of the programme or fleeing patients or delaying care will face action,” he said.

The officials said patients had been given many options to register complaints about the programme at 080089898 or www.sehatcardplus.gov.pk.

They said the programme’s beneficiaries were contacted to know about the care they received in hospitals.

The officials there were two per cent minor complaints against hospitals, which would be given a fair chance to address them and return unfair charges to patients.

They said the hospitals were given one month warning after suspension to follow the government’s rules and improve services to the patients’ satisfaction.

The officials said the SSP was a recognised programme, which provided free admission to every residents registered with Nadra in both public and private hospitals.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2021

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