PESHAWAR: The health department has suspended free health services at six private hospitals for charging the patients admitted under Sehat Sahulat Programme (SSP) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
SSP Director Dr Mohammad Riaz Tanoli told this scribe that the free services were suspended after complaints were received from the patients that they were charged by the hospitals.
He said that all the residents of the province were entitled to free medication under the programme but those, who wanted executive services or private room, were not eligible for the free services.
“The patients wanting private services from doctors, who aren’t empanelled, should sign a proforma available at the SSP desks at the entrances of the hospitals,” he said. He added the hospitals were directed to explain it to every patient before admission.
Dr Riaz said that presently free services were suspended at six hospitals for violating the agreements. He added that after receiving complaints, they asked the hospitals to return the money to the patients because it was a cashless programme but when the hospitals kept charging the patients three times, they cancelled their contracts.
Health dept takes action over patients’ complaints that they were being charged at the facilities
The patients continue to lodge complaints against the private hospitals.
“I took my nephew to Rehman Medical Institute (RMI) a few days ago in emergency and deposited Rs30,000 before start of his treatment. The next day, we contacted the SSP desk for his free treatment but we were told that once a patient was admitted as private, then he or she couldn’t be treated free,” Mahmood Jan Babar, a senior journalist, narrated in his complaint lodged with the health department.
He said that they contacted the administration as well as officials of State Life insurance Corporation (SLIC), which was implementing SSP on behalf of the government, that the patient had valid identity card of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and was eligible for free treatment but to no avail.
An official at RMI said that they treated SSP patients as per agreement. “No violation has been committed,” he added.
Health officials said that the people unaware of the free treatment programme were made to pay for private treatment because the cost of treatment under SSP was lesser than the private one.
“Many of the hospitals don’t inform the people about SSP and try to admit the patients as private and get cash on the spot. Under SSP, the private hospitals get less money,” they said, adding that the amount was paid to hospitals at the end of every month.
Last year, the health department cancelled contract with some private hospitals including premier private hospitals in Hayatabad for charging cash money from the SSP patients but those hospitals were again empanelled after they returned the money to the patients.
Mahmood Jan said that they weren’t informed about the procedure on the information desk and his request to shift the patient for free treatment under SSP was rejected. “They told us when a patient was admitted as private, he or she could not avail free services even if they came to know that free treatment was available under SSP,” he added.
Dr Riaz said that it was an ongoing process to address the complaints because government allocated Rs20 billion for free services of all people regardless of their financial status. “We have 523 empanelled hospitals in the country and 163 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A process of selecting new hospitals has been started and the number of health facilities would reach 200 early next year,” he added.
He said that the programme covered 7.46 million families in the province with each entitled to Rs1 million for free treatment. He said that they would start free liver transplant early next year for which contracts were about to be signed with four hospitals in Islamabad and Lahore.
“Already, we have spent Rs16 billion on free treatment of 616,000 patients. The programme initiated in 2014 in four districts, covering three per cent population, was extended to 51 per cent and 69 per cent people prior to its extension to the entire population of the province in November 2020,” said Dr Riaz.
Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2021