• Imran believes private sector can offer quality treatment even in far-off areas
• Health card facility to be extended to Balochistan, AJK, GB
• Buzdar vows to fulfil 100,000 jobs promise
LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday announced that the government would shut down all district headquarters (DHQ) hospitals and facilitate the private sector to ensure provision of health care to people in far-off areas through the Naya Pakistan National Health Card.
Speaking at the launch of the health card at a ceremony at the Governor House, the prime minister regretted that the DHQ hospitals were lying deserted because of the absence of doctors there. “Why should the government spend money if doctors are not going to the DHQ hospitals to serve the masses?” he asked.
The prime minister said the health card would be available in Lahore division from Jan 1 (today) and all families across Punjab would be covered by March 2022. Calling it a big step towards the creation of a welfare state, the PM said the government would be spending Rs400 billion to offer health insurance to 30 million families in Punjab.
He said the huge investment in the health card scheme would help create a robust healthcare structure across the province and the government would be relieved of establishing new hospitals. “Now, the private sector will come forward and establish hospitals across the province” for which it would be incentivised in acquiring land on controlled rates and availability of duty-free imported medical equipment, he stressed.
The private sector would be able to offer quality treatment to masses even in the far-flung areas in the province through the health card.
“The government wants all the poor people to be facilitated and helped to rise as was the case in the welfare state of Madina,” Mr Khan said and regretted that such a state did not exist in Muslim countries, but it did in Europe.
After covering the entire Punjab, the prime minister said, the health cards would be given to people in Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan – where the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had a government.
Meanwhile, federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry appealed to the Sindh chief minister to review his decision and let the people of his province avail the facility of Rs1 million health card. Regretting that the Sindh government was depriving its people of the facility, Mr Chaudhry said the PPP government in the province always played the “Sindh card” but refused to play a “positive card”.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also explained the PTI government’s other initiatives, including bank loans to the salaried classes to build homes. Of the Rs260bn loan applications, he said, some Rs110bn loans had been approved and Rs34bn already disbursed. This will continue to expand with time, he added. The prime minister also explained the importance of the Kamyab Pakistan and Ehsaas Ration programme.
Earlier, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said the health card had been launched for Lahore division and no one would now need to go to London or the US for treatment. He said the universal healthcare programme had started from Sahiwal and DG Khan divisions and the Punjab-wide coverage would help 115 million people avail free medical treatment.
The chief minister said other health projects, including the construction of 23 hospitals in various areas of the province, would be completed soon. He said 158 hospitals and health centres had been upgraded while 91 health schemes would be completed through the district development package. The health budget in 2013-18 was Rs169bn that had swelled to Rs389bn. He said more than Rs37bn would be spent to provide free medicines across Punjab, while around 35,000 jobs had been given in the health sector. The promise of 100,000 jobs would also be fulfilled, the CM claimed.
Later, PM Khan held a series of meetings in the city to review the status of development in Punjab, including one with the chief minister that was also attended by the chief secretary and the inspector general of police. He also met the provincial minister for sports and Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Ramiz Raja.
In a separate meeting, Punjab Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht briefed the prime minister about, what he called, the largest development budget in history amounting to Rs740bn for projects of public welfare and civic facilities.
Separately, Planning and Development Chairman Abdullah Khan Sumbal briefed the PM about the allocation of budget and status of its utilisation for ongoing projects in education, road and health sectors.
Mr Khan directed for timely completion of public welfare projects while ensuring quality of services to the masses. He also asked the administration to run effective awareness campaigns about the government’s development projects.
The prime minister also inaugurated a Panahgah (shelter home) on Ferozepur Road stressing that the PTI government was focusing on the welfare of downtrodden people. He asked the civil administration to ensure that the shelter home inmates were provided safe and comfortable stay.
The new Panahgah has the capacity to accommodate 80 men and 20 women at a time.
Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2022