PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to revamp district headquarters hospitals in tribal districts from its own resources after the suspension of healthcare funding by the federal government at the start of the current financial year.

In the 2022-23 budget, the government had announced the Revamping of Secondary Health Facilities Programme for settled districts at the cost of Rs20 billion in two years, officials told Dawn.

They, however, said the centre’s refusal to continue funding health projects in tribal districts during the current fiscal had forced the province to cover all secondary health initiatives under that programme.

For the Revamping of Secondary Health Facilities Programme, the health department has already selected six hospitals in Peshawar, Charsadda, Haripur, Karak and Abbottabad districts. In the next phase, such health facilities in other districts will be upgraded.

Move comes after centre’s refusal to provide funds; provincial govt has already announced such a programme for settled districts

The officials said the provincial government had included seven DHQ hospitals in as many tribal districts in the revamping programme after the centre declined to provide funds for them.

They said the federal government had also stopped free health services for the erstwhile Fata and frontier regions in July this year asking the province to include that population in its Sehat Card Plus programme.

The officials said previously, 12 million families in tribal districts received free treatment under the centre-run Sehat Sahulat Programme (SSP) but currently, they availed themselves of the cashless treatment under the provincial government’s Sehat Card Plus programme.

They said the province had asked for Rs5 billion funds for the healthcare of those residents until June 2023.

The officials said besides the construction of new hospitals in the province, the government had announced the revamping of DHQ hospitals in phases.

They, however, said DHQ hospitals in seven tribal districts were also made part of the programme in light of poor healthcare situation.

When contacted, provincial director-general (health services) Dr Shaheen Afridi said the hospital revamping programme would bring much-needed improvement in healthcare system in the province.

“DHQ hospitals in tribal districts have been included in the programme as part of the programme to upgrade services and provide adequate staff, equipments and medical supplies to ensure better secondary care facilities,” she said.

The DG said health facilities in tribal districts were managed by a separate directorate before the Fata-KP merger but they were later brought under the health services directorate, which improved services there.

She said the health department’s independent monitoring unit had begun operation in the region and health facilities were regularly monitored and disciplinary action was taken accordingly.

Dr Shaheen said though the health department initially struggled to merge its ex-Fata employees with those from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 90 per cent of work on it had been completed.

She said health regulations had been implemented in tribal districts with the deployment of drug inspectors to manage medicine-related matters on the pattern of settled districts.

The DG said six to seven DHQ hospitals would be upgraded in every phase and thus, improving patient care with strict monitoring by the health department.

Meanwhile, officials in the health secretariat said health minister Taimur Jhagra had ordered the inclusion of ex-Fata DHQ hospitals in the secondary healthcare revamping programme meant for settled districts.

They said an amount of Rs700 million would be spent on the improvement of infrastructure, equipment and HR in each of the hospitals.

Officials said the government had also decided to outsource health facilities in tribal districts as part of its initiative to contract out 58 health facilities under public-private partnership, which would further improve patient care.

They said health facilities in the province had a heavy patient load from tribal districts due to poor services and absenteeism in hospitals of their region.

The officials said the erstwhile Fata had over 1,100 health centres but as there was no proper check and balance for them, the residents had to go to settled districts, especially Peshawar, for diagnosis and treatment.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2022

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