PESHAWAR: The government has decided to provide an additional amount of Rs250 million to State Life Insurance Corporation to set up ‘reserve fund’ and ensure uninterrupted free dialysis and treatment of cancer patients on Sehat Card Plus, according to officials.

The government released Rs5 billion early this month that led to resumption of free treatment of people after remaining partially suspended for more than one year. “However, State Life Insurance Corporation, the executor of the programme, has requested the government to release an additional Rs400 million to establish reserve funds and make sure that the people suffering from cancer and needing dialysis continue availing cashless services under the programme,” officials said.

They said that Health Minister Syed Qasim Ali Shah in a meeting last week agreed to release Rs250 million for the purpose and help the cancer and dialysis patients get services without any interruption.

“Treatment services on card have restarted on March 12 throughout the province and empanelled hospitals across the country but we have requested the minister to give extra funds, which he has accepted,” they said. They said that as per policy, each of the family in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was eligible to receive free healthcare per year but if a patient required more than Rs400,000, his/her case was referred to the reserve fund committee, which accorded approval to it.

Officials say renal and liver transplants can be included in the scheme at a later stage

Officials said when the programme was in full swing before the caretaker government restricted it to three emergency diseases, the insurance company maintained reserved fund at Rs500 million. They added that the fund was spent only on those patients, who exhausted the limit of Rs400,000.

They said that it would enable cancer patients and people in need of dialysis to have continuous services as they required lifelong treatment but there was no indication to resume liver and kidney transplants on SCP. Bothe the procedures cost Rs5 million and Rs1.4 million, respectively. So far, 164 kidney and 64 liver transplants have been conducted through reserve fund.

Officials said that people were still waiting to undergo renal and liver transplants on SCP but at the moment it was not possible to include both the procedures in the programme.

“People with both kidneys damaged can only survive when they undergo transplant. Otherwise, they have to rely on dialysis. Same is case with people with having liver cirrhosis as they can survive only after transplants,” they said.

Officials said that the caretaker government had floated the idea of limiting free treatment services to 66 per cent low income population of the province to make the programme sustainable but that idea was dropped as Pakistan Tehreek-i-Inaf government already extended the scheme to the whole population and passed Universal Health Coverage Act, 2022.

“May be at a later stage, the government will include renal and liver transplants in the programme but at present there is no prospects for free transplants,” they said.

Officials said that most of the cancer and dialysis patients consumed the limit of funds as they got services throughout the year, after which they would get money from reserve funds. “We have been receiving requests from patients for liver and renal transplants because some people have already undergone tests and have arranged donors but it is not possible presently,” they said.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2024

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