ISLAMABAD, Feb 23: The fate of the health card scheme launched by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 2015 is uncertain, as some of the medical treatments available to patients under this facility have been suspended at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims).

General surgeries, neuro surgeries, ophthalmologist procedures, ENT department, orthopaedic, and some other sections have stopped admitting patients. However Cardiac Centre, Mother and Child Hospital (MCH), Children Hospital and Burn Centre are still catering to patients.

Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) Spokesperson Sajid Shah, after contacting Executive Director (ED) Dr Naeem Malik, blamed the vendor which was “not providing supplies in time”.

The issue has been settled, he claimed while promising resumption of routine services within a few days.

An unnamed official at Pims said that services under health card were suspended in the Islamabad Hospital located inside Pims.

A number of surgeries and procedures have been halted.

It is worth mentioning that Islamabad Hospital is the main hospital of the Pims where treatments, under eight departments, are provided to adult patients.

“We have heard that the bill could not be paid to the vendor due to which it has stopped supplies. We urge the hospital management and Ministry of Health to address the issue so that the services could be resumed,” he said.

Sajid Shah said that the ED Pims Dr Naeem Malik had informed him that the procedures were halted due to the negligence of the vendor as it could not “ensure supplies in time”.

“Considering the situation, the vendor has been changed. Health Ministry fully owns the programme and it will ensure that the programme would run without any interruptions,” he said.

It is worth mentioning that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif launched the programme in Dec 2015 for the residents of Islamabad. He had also announced that the card would be expanded to all parts of Punjab, Balochistan, AJK, Gilgit Baltistan and the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). People of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) could not be benefited from the initiative at that time because their governments had declined to become part of the federal government’s programme. Later KP launched its own health card, namely Sehat Insaf Card. During the tenure of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, the programme was expanded across the country except for Sindh.

The treatment available under the health card, also called as Qaumi Sehat Card/Sehat Sahulat Programme, includes open heart surgeries, insertion of stents, management of cancer, neurosurgical procedures, burn management, accident management, dialysis, intensive care management, deliveries, C-section and other medical/surgical procedures up to the limit of Rs1 million per family on an annual basis. There is a facility of inter-provincial / inter-district portability for availing free-of-cost services from over 600 empanelled hospitals in Pakistan.

Since the start of the health card scheme in 2015, the State Life Insurance Corporation of Pakistan has been dealing with the programme and in 2021, it won the contract for the next three years (2022 to 2025). Currently, 100pc population of Islamabad, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and a few districts of Sindh are entitled to get free treatment under this scheme.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2023

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