PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has started free treatment of the residents of the newly-merged districts after the federal government stopped their cashless medication on June 30 this year.

“We have included the population of the newly-merged districts and frontier regions in Sehat Card Plus programme run by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government,” said Provincial Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra in a statement.

He expressed concerns over the abrupt decision by the federal government to exclude the 1.6 million people of tribal districts from availing free health services. He said that provincial government decided to continue providing free health services to people of former Fata.

“We have asked the State Life Insurance Corporation (SLIC) to extend the facilities to the population of erstwhile Fata on emergency basis. It means that now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be giving free services to all its population. We are already providing free health coverage to eight million families of the province. Now the population of tribal districts has been included in the Sehat Card Plus (SCP) programme,” said the minister.

25 patients from ex-Fata hospitalised during last 24 hours

He said that provincial government restored not only free health services to the residents of tribal districts but also enhanced the annual package per family to Rs1 million from Rs720,000, they had been receiving from the federal’s Sehat Sahulat Programme (SSP).

He said that those 1.6 families of the tribal districts were excluded by federal government unilaterally from the programme without taking into account that they needed free health services more than the residents of other parts of the country.

The minister said that Rs1 million was not the limit. He added that all those people, who possessed the identity cards of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, were eligible to free health services. “They stand eligible to all services, including liver and renal transplants at the premier health institutions of the country free of cost. These procedures cost Rs5 million and Rs1.5 million, respectively,” he added.

Officials told this scribe that during the last 24 hours, 25 patients from tribal districts were admitted to empanelled hospitals under the programme. They said that it was an interim relief given by the provincial government to the people of tribal districts.

They said that provincial government had taken up the issue of funds for the treatment of the residents of former Fata as they were supposed to get free health services under the federal’s SSP till June 30, 2023.

They said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government required about Rs5 billion to pay for the treatment of the residents of tribal districts for one year. They added that it had been decided by the government that the centre would sponsor the programme till 2023 and in case of shifting it to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, assets would also be transferred.

Officials said that Chief Minister Mahmood Khan had already written letter to the federal government to reconsider the move of halting funds for the programme and release the required amount to the province. They said that federal government had provided free services to 189,047 people but the package was Rs720,000 per family and renal and liver transplant were not part of the package announced for people of former Fata.

“We got data from Nada and have asked SLIC for implementation of the programme as interim arrangement,” they said. They added that there were more than 1,100 public and private hospitals across the country where the entitled families could get free health services. So far, Rs28 billion has been spent on the free treatment of 1.2 million people of the province. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has 192 hospitals empanelled for the scheme.

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the only province giving universal health coverage to all its six million families, including residents of tribal districts,” said officials.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2022

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