KARACHI: Representatives of the Private Hospitals and Clinics Association (PHCA) have strongly opposed imposition of taxes on healthcare products, warning that the “situation will become more alarming” if the decision wasn’t withdrawn.

At a meeting held to discuss the budget, association representatives expressed serious concern over the imposition of 15 per cent sales tax and import duties on healthcare products, The attendees included PHCA vice president Dr Bilal Faiz Khan, general secretary Prof Farhan Essa, Dr Muhammad Iqbal, Naeem Asghar, Dr Nauman Palekat, Shahid Raza, Hamza Chishti, Barrister Zeeshan Naeem, Salman Ahmed, Sher Muhammad Khan, Dr Tahir Yousuf and Dr SM Qaiser Sajjad.

The members emphasised that private sector health facilities didn’t get any subsidy from the government and that the decision to impose taxes would increase treatment cost.

“The government must realise that medical treatment is not a luxury but a compulsion. The implementation of sales tax will directly affect patients, imposing an extraordinary burden on them,” said PHCA president Dr Syed Junaid Ali Shah, also a former provincial health minister.

On behalf of the association, he demanded that the healthcare sector be given special importance and status of an industry like other countries.

He regretted that the government in the recent budget had decided to impose duty on healthcare products that were earlier duty-free. “The decision to impose three to five percent duty on healthcare products will not only increase the charges of private hospitals but also burden patients,” he said.

Private hospitals in their limited resources, he pointed out, tried their best not to put an additional burden on patients. “But, if the government continues to burden the private sector with taxes, the situation will become more alarming because the private hospitals do not get any subsidy from the government.”

Members of PHCA also shared concern over the budget proposal to tax charitable hospitals, highlighting that the move would make it impossible for these facilities to provide free treatment to the poor, demanding that the government must revise the budget.

“We also want to emphasise that the increase in the prices of cardiology products by more than 30pc will adversely affect patients. We propose that the government invite and consult the stakeholders of the healthcare sector,” they stated.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2024

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