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WHO to help KP govt in devising uniform plan for free healthcare

PESHAWAR: The World Health Organisation, which is providing technical assistance to the authorities to streamline healthcare financing in all provinces and Azad Jammu and Kashmir, will help them to put in place a uniform programme of free healthcare across the country.

A mission of WHO including Prof Soonman, Dr Faraz Khalid and Dr Mohammad Saeed Akbar Khan held discussions with the officials of health and finance departments during a visit to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recently.

The mission, which reached Pakistan on January 8, 2019 on the government’s invitation to streamline its healthcare financing system, also visited other provinces and later presented its recommendations to Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC) regarding improvement in the system.

The health department officials told Dawn that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had launched Sehat Sahulat Programme (SSP) two years ago that benefitted about 150,000 patients. Under it, each household of eight persons is entitled to get services up to Rs540,000 but still there is room for improvement.

The government pays premium to the insurance company, but the latter retains 20 per cent of the unspent amount at the end of the year and returns 80 per cent to the former. The health department wants that entire amount should be spent on patients’ health and profit margin by the company should be reduced.

As the government has designated about 100 private and state-run hospitals to treat people under the SSP, but bulk of the amount goes to the private sector because of prompt services being provided to the patients there.

In the government hospitals, the doctors and other staff involved in the treatment of SSP’s patients don’t get any additional benefits due to which they are least interested in their treatment, according to sources.

“The WHO has been providing technical assistance to the government to offer quality healthcare services to families living below the poverty line through free of cost health insurance programmes and is devising strategy to bring uniformity among the programmes run by federal government and province, especially SSP in KP,” said officials.

They said that those initiatives were steps towards realisation of the WHO’s Universal Health Coverage, which needed to be ensured in the face of hefty rise in public sector expenditure as well as high cost of medicines. Not only these programmes ensure that the under-privileged citizens across the country get access to quality medical services in a swift and dignified manner, but it also ascertains, by preventing the catastrophic expenditures on health, that poor families do not slip further down the poverty line.

The world health agency has conducted a ‘health financing diagnostic review’ of social health protection initiatives to plan for further public sector funding and sustainability of these initiatives, specifically undertaking an in-depth diagnostic analysis of the health financing system in the country by taking into consideration the developed political arrangement and identifying the challenges including raising, managing and using financial health resources.

According to officials, the WHO’s visit was aimed at generating a policy dialogue to promote more public money for health by undertaking a fiscal space analysis for the health sector and identifying alternative relevant resource mobilisation arrangements.

Pakistan has sought WHO’s technical cooperation to develop a federal health financing policy that could be used in the formulation of provincial health financing strategies. The UN health agency will also extend cooperation to the government in designing and implementing the health insurance programme in the provinces to enhance financial protection goal for the poor.

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