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PESHAWAR, Jan 24: The Khyber Pakht-unkhwa government on Thursday urged Election Commission of Pakistan to exempt its health department from ban on fresh appointments before the imminent general elections.

Provincial health minister Syed Zahir Shah told a news conference here that his department was in dire need of doctors, paramedics and other staff to provide essential medical services to people and therefore, ECP should exempt it from the recent pre-poll ban on fresh appointments.

“We urgently need the services of 1,200 doctors and others paramedical staff for newly-established hospitals and medical teaching institutions in the province to ensure provision of enhanced, quality and uninterrupted medical cover to the people,” he said.

The minister said the provincial government had increased health budget 100 per cent since its formation four and a half years ago.

“We have been spending Rs20billion on health sector to improve patient care. In 2008, the province’s health spending were Rs10 billion,” he said.

Flanked by information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Mr Shah said the government had accorded top priority to improvement of healthcare system to benefit the poor patients and sanctioned service structure for doctors and paramedics, while the same was on the cards for nurses.

He said the current government had established two medical colleges, Bacha Medical College in Mardan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical College in Peshawar, in light of the growing needs of the population.

The minister said the government wanted to strengthen healthcare network and enable the population to get treatment on their doorstep.

He said Rs500 million had been allocated to the hepatitis control programme from Benazir Income Support Programme for free diagnosis and treatment facilities to all.

Mr Shah said the province had stockpiled medicines for 150,000 patients, while the treatment had been available at the district headquarters hospitals in all districts where patients were given free facilities.

He said the government had also launched a programme costing Rs700 million to provide higher education to nurses and benefit patients.

The minister said around 500 nurses would receive postgraduate training after which they would be imparting the same to the local nurses.

“We are seeking to produce trained staff to improve patient care,” he said.

He said in view of disasters and the growing militancy, the government had upgraded emergency medical services in Charsadda, Kohat and Dera Ismail Khan, while efforts were underway to strengthen the same in other districts, too.

Mr Shah said during the last four years, the health department had upgraded 10 basic health units to rural health centres and eight RHCs to category B hospitals.

“We are planning to make a fountain house where mentally-retarded people will be kept. The plan will be executed soon after its formal approval by the government,” he said.

The minister said Khyber Institute of Child Health had already been functioning, while a 200-bedded children hospital would soon be established by it with the financial support of the federal government.

He said the federal government had promised to provide Rs17 billion for the construction of Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Hospital in Peshawar.

“Our government has already acquired 100 kanals of land for the hospital, which will help ease workload on the city’s three teaching hospitals,” he said.

Mr Shah said the government had allocated Rs500 million for free treatment of cancer patients, while free dialysis was being offered to kidney patients, mostly poor people.