PESHAWAR: Health department has decided to start free OPD service for maternal, diabetes, heart and lungs diseases with the financial assistance of German government in four districts of the province.

The department has started initial paperwork to chalk out standard operating procedure for the three-year project, starting in April next year. “We are in the process of sorting out modalities regarding selection of hospitals, doctors and mechanism,” officials told this scribe.

They said that the project would be launched in Mardan, Malakand, Kohat and Chitral. They said that recently in a meeting with donor country, it was decided to start the programme in Mardan and then replicate it in other designated districts on the basis of its success.

An amount of 9.4 million euros has been pledged by Germany to be spent through KfW Bank while the government will pay little amount to run the project. It is first of its kind project to provide free healthcare services to outdoor patients.

Germany has pledged 9.4 million Euros for the health project

So far, the government has been providing free health services to in-patients on Sehat Card Plus (SCP) in the province. The OPD programme will be enforced by Social Health Protection Initiative (SHPI), which is also implementer of the SCP scheme of health department. The project will facilitate a total of 100,000 families or 550,000 persons in the selected districts.

Dr Mohammad Riaz Tanoli, the chief executive of SHPI, told Dawn that patients would be entitled to have three free checkups per year for which government would pay cost of consultation fee, investigations and medicines from the grant provided by the government of Germany.

Recipients of free OPD services will be selected on the basis of data of Benazir Income Support Programme. The people falling in the poorest category will stand eligible to get free health services at OPD.

“As per initial plan, the programme will get under way at union council level where two general practitioners will be contracted to deal with patients. One each doctor will be selected from public and private sector,” said Dr Riaz.

He said that a similar programme was started by the provincial government in collaboration with Germany in those four districts in 2015 under which three per cent population was provided with free treatment and the same initiative proved very successful in provision of free health services to patients.

Dr Riaz said that on basis of that initiative, the provincial government launched its own Sehat Sahulat Programme (SSP), later renamed as SCP, and started provision of free health services to 51 per cent residents of the province in August 2016. The scheme was later extended to the entire population of the province in November 2020 in a phase-wise manner.

SCP has been covering only hospitalised patients and has so far provided free health services to 2.6 million patients at a cost of Rs70 billion. The number of beneficiaries of the programme has increased manifolds after its extension to the whole population of the province.

Dr Riaz said that the four diseases covered in OPD programme would benefit the patients, who were not able to pay the cost of their treatment and diagnosis. “Patients will get free medicines,” he added.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2023

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