PESHAWAR: The federal government has stopped funding free treatment of the residents of tribal districts under its Sehat Sahulat Programme and asked the provincial government to incorporate them into its free healthcare initiative, Sehat Card Plus programme.

At the same time, hospitals empanelled across the country for the Sehat Sahulat Programme have refused to treat the ex-Fata residents free of charge.

According to health officials, 189,047 people have availed themselves of free health services in tribal districts, where each family is entitled to receive Rs720,000 every year except Bajaur and Khyber tribal districts, where allocation totalled Rs1 million.

The SLIC implements the centre-financed SSP in tribal districts, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Sindh province’s Tharparkar district in almost 1,100 empanelled hospitals and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the pioneer of the free health insurance the programme in the country and SCP in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Asks province to cover those people under its healthcare programme

On Saturday, the State Life Insurance Corporation, implementer of the Sehat Sahulat Programme (SSP) for ex-Fata region, expressed concern over the development and feared that the shortage of funds would hamper the free treatment of 1.2 million families in tribal districts.

In a letter to Sehat Card Plus programme CEO Dr Mohammad Riaz Tanoli, SLIC Islamabad regional chief Ashar Khan said, “following the recent development [suspension of Sehat Sahulat Programme funding for ex-Fata residents],the SLIC [should] be intimated regarding the continuation of the health coverage in tribal districts from the funds of the Sehat Card Plus run by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for cashless treatment.”

He said the corporation had implemented Phase II of the SSP for the federal government until June 30, 2022.

The SLIC regional chief quoted the Ministry of National Health Services as claiming that the federal government had removed tribal families from its free

cashless health services on the orders issued earlier this year by the then prime minister, Imran Khan.

He also wrote to the provincial health minister seeking the Nadra’s data of the programme’s beneficiaries in tribal districts to ensure their continued care.

Meanwhile, health officials in the province told Dawn that the SSP was part of the National Finance Commission Award as well and its handover to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa along with funds and liabilities was decided by the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration.

They complained that Islamabad had transferred the SSP’s liabilities to Peshawar and not Rs4 billion funds required until June 2023.

The officials said the treatment of those admitted to hospitals under the programme would continue.

A hospital’s medical superintendent told Dawn that he was under tremendous pressure of patients for free admission and treatment under the SSP but couldn’t do so.

He insisted that women and children, who were the top beneficiaries of the healthcare initiative, would suffer the most.

Officials in the provincial health secretariat here said that national health services minister Abdul Qadir Patel had formally informed Chief Minister Mahmood Khan about the halt to the free treatment of people from tribal districts under the Sehat Sahulat Programme.

They said under PC-1 approved by the federal government, the centre should continue providing funds for the SSP until the next year and that in case of early handover of the programme to the province, the required funds should also be transferred to it.

The officials said the province wanted just a verbal assurance about those funds transfer from the centre.

They also said a month ago, the federal government had requested the provincial government for the coverage of tribal people under the Sehat Card Plus and the latter had assured the former of doing so after the enhancement of the SCP’s capacity and provision of funds allocated for purpose.

The officials said tribal districts didn’t factor in the calculation of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s NFC Award share, so the shifting of healthcare funds required for the treatment of the region’s residents was of paramount importance.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2022

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