PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan on Monday announced that the provincial government would fund the provision of free healthcare to the residents of tribal districts.

He also requested the federal government to reconsider its decision to stop providing funds for the Sehat Sahulat Programme (SSP) for the free treatment of 1.2 million families in tribal districts (ex-Fata).

“We [KP government] will run the [free healthcare] programme [for tribal people] from our own resources,” an official statement quoted Chief Minister Mahmood Khan as telling the cabinet in a meeting here on Monday.

The chief minister directed the relevant officials to immediately make arrangements for the continued provision of free health services to the people in tribal regions until the resolution of funding issue with the centre.

He said former prime minister Imran Khan had ordered the transfer of the Sehat Sahulat Programme along with its funds.

Mr Mahmood asked the federal government to re-consider its decision to suspend the funding of free treatment of ex-Fata residents.

The statement also disclosed that the chief minister wrote a letter to federal health minister Abdul Qadir Patel requesting him to revisit the decision in the “best interests of the tribal people, who had suffered immensely due to terrorism.”

“People of newly-merged districts are our own people. They can be left out of the free health facilities on Sehat Cards. We will take up all issues of the provincial rights, including cashless services of the population of former Fata, [with the centre],” he said.

Meanwhile, the provincial health officials told Dawn that the province was expecting to absorb tribal residents in its Sehat Card Plus programme from July 2023 but the centre stopped the provision of funds to the State Life Insurance Corporation (SLIC), the implanter of the SSP, on June 30, 2022.

They said the centre’s abrupt decision had left the province with no option but to fund the free healthcare programme under which 189,047 patients had so far been treated.

The officials said provincial health minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra was in contact with the relevant federal authorities to resolve that funding issues as the free treatment of ex-Fata residents was part of PC-I that the latter would sponsor that programme in tribal districts until 2023.

They added that the province required an additional amount of Rs4 billion for the purpose.

The officials said the SLIC had been awaiting a go-ahead for the free treatment of tribal residents and wanted the transfer of those people to the Sehat Card Plus initiative.

They said the corporation also implemented the SCP for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa covering its all 7.7 million families.

The officials said it wasn’t immediately possible to resume free services in question as the National Database Registration Authority wanted to sign a contact with the SCP programme about the data of the entire tribal population.

They said the health minister asked the relevant authorities for speedy work but the required few steps would take a week or so.

The officials said the SCP had entire data about the province’s population and not of ex-Fata families, which were registered with Nadra under a contract for the Sehat Sahulat Programme.

They said under the Sehat Card Plus programme, 1.3 million patients had so far been treated at the cost of Rs28 billion but more human resources would be required to take care of free healthcare for the people of tribal districts.

The officials said the provincial government had already allocated Rs25 billion from the ongoing financial year, up from Rs22 billion in the last financial year, and was ready to absorb the population of tribal districts if the centre gave a verbal assurance for the transfer of the one-year cash required for it.

They said the province had already passed the Universal Health Coverage Bill, 2022, to provide free treatment to the residents of ex-Fata, which was now part of the province.

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2022

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