PESHAWAR: The authorities are planning to establish Primary Health Directorate to reduce burden of diseases on hospitals through provision of basic services to patients at first level health facilities.

Such a directorate has already been established in Punjab province which has led to improvement in basic health indicators, according to officials.

They said that in that connection, a couple of meetings were already held with Health Minister Taimur Khan Jhagra. The directorate will work under the director-general health services with a BPS-20 management cadre doctor as it head to start province-wide activities for prevention and control of diseases and epidemics like dengue and Covid-19, etc.

The proposal being considered by health department also includes three deputy directors and support staff to ensure that minor ailments are treated at the level of fist health facilities and only serious patients are referred to secondary and tertiary care hospitals for specialised treatment.

Health dept mulling to treat minor ailments at local level

The plan is meant to strengthen basic health units up to tehsil headquarters hospitals and provide preventive services to patients at the grassroots level.

Officials said that currently there was no such system and all patients could seek treatment wherever they wanted. “It puts additional burden on the secondary and tertiary care health facilities, which are basically required to receive complicated and chronic cases,” they said.

The establishment of the directorate will be a transition from selective healthcare to comprehensive primary healthcare to get rid of host of diseases, which recur at the local level and snowball into major health issues owing to lack of a proper system. The written concept paper for setting the directorate has also been discussed with finance department.

The health minister has given go-ahead for working on the proposal to improve immunisation, mother and child health, reduce cases of tuberculosis, HIV/Aids, malaria, leishmaniasis along with taking steps to promote healthy activities like inculcating habit of exercises among the people and ensuring appropriate dietary regimes for them, especially pregnant women to reduce maternal and infant mortality rate and malnourishment.

“The burgeoning population has also been a source of concern for the government, which is required to take steps for its control in line with the international commitments made by Pakistan,” said officials.

They said that Primary Health Directorate would act as umbrella for the public health activities throughout the province. As per existing mechanism, the health department is often blamed for rise in cases of dengue, Covid-19 and other diseases in the province despite the fact that other departments are responsible for cause of pollution of water and air, bad sanitation and shortage of electricity supply.

The directorate will spearhead all such activities to put brakes on many epidemics. The health department is also facing challenges to deal with water-borne ailments, including diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A and E and typhoid. However, it is the responsibility of other departments to take preventive measures to control these diseases.

Likewise, poliomyelitis has been endemic in the country for nearly three decades because of existence of virus in sewerage water. The health department through international assistance has been spending millions of dollars on vaccination every month but the disease continues to stay and haunts people.

Officials said that doing away with poliomyelitis and other water-related disease required multi-sectoral approach to ensure clean drinking water. Pakistan has been reporting multi-drug typhoid and extensive drug resistance tuberculosis cases, which need to be prevented through coordinated approach as the health department is there to provide treatment.

“Same is true for malaria, leishmaniasis and other diseases, which can be prevented through a strong public health system to be implemented by the planned Primary Health Directorate,” said officials.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2022

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