Asmat Khan

Peshawar: Hayat Bibi, a 42-year-old resident of Gulbahar area, had three tumors of different sizes in her head that could not be treated in Peshawar, while surgeries in Lahore, Islamabad or Karachi would cost her 1.6 million rupees. Hayat Bibi, a widow with two children to support, was worried about her treatment.

While speaking to TNN, she said that after learning from a friend that her treatment was possible at Khyber Teaching Hospital via Sehat Insaaf card, she went there to get information. And four months ago her three tumors were successfully removed.

It was feared that the health card would also be affected by the change of government in the province, but even after the dissolution of the provincial assembly by the PTI, this program was carried by the caretaker government.

The Interim government has now released funds for provision of free healthcare service to facilitate patients of the province.

Every political government tries to initiate special health care and service delivery programs for the welfare of the people.

In this regard, the former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government launched the ‘Sehat Card Plus’ program in December 2015 as part of its social security initiative, which initially provided free medical and surgical treatment to around 50 percent of the province’s population.

Initially, the program was launched in the districts of Kohat, Mardan, Malakand and Chitral with 1.8 million poor households (about 150 million people) entitled to receive free treatment up to Rs 540,000 at designated hospitals in the province.

Later in February 2019, the program was expanded nationwide in the second phase, including all districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with the target of providing free treatment, along with the provision of medicines, up to one million rupees at a hundred designated hospitals.

Riaz Tanuli, Chief Executive Officer of Health Card Plus Program, KP, said that despite financial constraints, treatment continued under Health Card Plus (SCP) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and about 9.7 million families benefited from spending incentives of Rs 30 billion in the second phase.

In the first phase, 0.23 million people benefited from this facility and six billion rupees were spent on their treatment.

He said that while the program initially covered three percent of the population in four districts in 2015, later, in three different phases, it was extended to 51, 70 and 100 percent of the population of the province by November 2019 respectively.

According to Tanoli, the government pays Rs 2.5 billion per month to SLIC (State Life insurance Corporation) to bear the expenses under SCP and the insurance company keeps Rs 1.5 billion from the dues and pays the rest to the hospitals.

He said that there is no shortage of funds as the caretaker government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has released 4 billion PKR to SLIC so far and the balance will be cleared by May this year.

Dr Riaz Tanoli said that in the recent meeting with the Chief Secretary, it was agreed that the SCP program will not be suspended despite financial constraints and the government will continue to pay for it in the interest of patients.

He said that 30 billion rupees are required annually for the smooth functioning of SCP, but the meeting directed the health department to ensure the provision of quality healthcare facilities to patients under the program and through mutual agreements with hospitals. Therefore, the monitoring of hospitals should be strengthened.

He said the SCP was protected under the Universal Health Coverage Act passed last year and could not be changed, suspended or discontinued unless the Assembly sanctions otherwise.

On the other hand, patients in the three major hospitals of Peshawar complained of long delays in case of major surgeries.

Ulman Khan, from Tank district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said that his son had some intestinal problem and the doctor gave him four months time for the surgery at KTH Hospital, due to which we were forced to do that surgery at the cost of seventy thousand rupees that we had to borrow. He said that his son is fine today, but they are still in debt and will have to clear that loan.

A doctor at Khyber Teaching Hospital, on the condition of anonymity, told TNN that they perform major operations on dozens of people a month via health card and they prefer the patient first whose case is serious and requires urgent surgery.

He said that due to the large number of patients, they are bound to make them wait for months.

He also added that sometimes there are patients from far flung areas and cannot wait for long or cannot travel, in that case, they operate them privately, and try minimize the cost as much as possible.

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