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Experts warn against brain drain of doctors

March 04, 2012

Health has never been the priority of both autocratic and democratic governments in Pakistan while provision of health is not even on the agendas and manifestoes of political also. – AP Photo

KARACHI: Pakistan has become an Export Processing Zone of qualified health professionals and trained paramedical staff who are leaving the country for greener pastures and secured places in the world due to lack of security, poor remuneration, limited resources of professional development and an overall discouragement of health profession in Pakistan.

Devolution of health to the provinces was the biggest mistake by the government as it further deteriorated health facilities to common people in Pakistan while in provinces, health departments were being managed by non-professionals who were denying primary healthcare facilities to common people, which is a basic, fundamental right of every person in Pakistan.

Health has never been the priority of both autocratic and democratic governments in Pakistan while provision of health is not even on the agendas and manifestoes of political also. In this situation, Chief Justice of Pakistan should take suo moto notice for the protection of health professionals and provision of health facilities to masses.

These views were expressed by leading health professionals and experts while expressing their views on the topic of Health Politics and Doctors Issues on Saturday at the second day of 22nd Biennial International Convention being held here at Expo Center Karachi.

Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) President Prof. Tipu Sultan bitterly criticized the authorities and the devolution of the health ministry to provinces, saying this further complicated the process of healthcare provision to people.

Prof. Tipu Sultan cited corruption, lack of political will and poor state of security as biggest obstacles in provision of health services in Pakistan and added that due to fears of life and earning better remuneration, doctors are running away from the country, further aggravating the miseries of common people. He called for establishment of major, tertiary-care hospitals at town levels in Karachi comprising 500-bed each so that people could avail quality health facilities nearer to their abodes and called for enhancing the health budget of the country above 6 per cent of the GDP.

Renowned Pediatrician Prof. Ghaffar A Billo strongly criticized the present government, rulers and politicians belonging to all political parties of the country saying health was not a priority of any of the ruler or even politician in Pakistan.

Every day 1500 children die due to diseases that are preventable but neither the government nor the media give least attention to this important issue. Doctors are running away, despite being most intelligent people of the society, they get paid less than ordinary people, and the ultimate sufferer due to this situation is common man he observed.

Prof. Billo urged the associations of health professionals including PIMA and PMA to continue dialogue on these basic issues and form a task force to pursue basic issues facing doctors like protection and remuneration and common man that include provision of primary healthcare facilities without any hassle.

He also criticized the mushroom growth of medical colleges in the country and claimed that these colleges had become money making ventures for their owners and resultantly, graduates try to mint as much money as possible to cover the money they spent on their medical education.

Little spending on water, sanitation and immunization can save millions of lives in Pakistan while provision of skilled birth attendants can drastically reduce mothers mortality but unfortunately, these areas have never been given any attention by the people concerned he observed.

The known pediatrician urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to take suo moto notice on the issue of protection of doctors and demanded that state should be made responsible to provide security to health professionals.

Pro-Vice Chancellor of Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) Prof. Umer Farooq declared that entire health and education infrastructure had become rotten due to corruption, lust and greed of the officials and authorities where standard of the education has declined to miserable extent.

He said the working atmosphere for doctors in Pakistan was not conducive and due to that ultimate sufferer were the common people, who lack financial resources to buy quality health facilities at private hospitals, which are flourishing in the country.

Prof. Umer Farooq called for preparation of comprehensive health policy and its implementation in letter and spirit, provision of incentives to doctors in the country, periodic transfers of the doctors to rural areas with double incentives and an increase in health budget to meet the growing health needs of common people.

Leading Neurologist Prof. Abdur Rasheed Jumma in his address lamented that there was no health policy in place in the country at the moment as the health was devolved to provinces, which complicated the issue and created problems for both doctors and common people.