Free health coverage, a blessing for millions of people in KP

Peshawar: Implementation of free healthcare facilities to millions of its people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has emerged as a blessing for ailing poor and neglected segment of society. Over the decades, poor in the province had been bearing the brunt of healthcare expenditures with thousands among them unable to get proper medical facilities.

The initiative of Health Insaaf Card not only fulfilled their long awaited need for healthcare but also decreased the financial burden for the people who were always toiling to merely meet their household expenditure. It became painful when the poor and downtrodden segment of society had to choose between bread and butter and healthcare.

This often used to make them decide to feed their children instead of expenditure on healthcare compelling them to borrow money for treatment on high interest rates. The paucity of finances usually

forced them to approach quacks or incompetent health practitioners that could have sometimes lead to serious complications.

Provincial Minister for Finance and Health Taimur Khan Jhagra said history has been made after KP becoming first province to provide free healthcare services to entire population. “Health insurance has been provided to 100 percent population in record three months as per vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan of ‘free health

services to all.”

Taimur Jhagra said besides free health coverage, anti corona vaccination has formally been started and vaccination centers in 280 hospitals were established in the province. “KP has initially received 16, 000 anti corona vaccines from the Federal Government that was being administered to frontline health workers.”

He said around 2500 health workers were imparted training for anti corona vaccination and over 64, 000 healthcare workers were already registered for administration of vaccines to patients.

Khyber Pakthunkhwa has become the first ever province in Pakistan to initiate free of charge treatment facilities to its people under PTI Government flagship Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through Sehat Plus

Cards (SPC).

From Chitral to DI Khan, all districts have been included in UHC and more than 400 government and private hospitals have been on the panel list of SPC Program.

Treatment facilities in these empanelled public and private healthcare facilities were started following successful completion of third and final phase of SPC for seven southern districts of KP.

Under SPC, each deserving family can avail free treatment up to Rs one million annually that would

benefit 40 million inhabitants.

Prior to formal inauguration of Sehat Card plus Programme in southern zone, the project was launched in Malakand, Hazara and Peshawar zones where people had already started availing free treatment facilities in over 400 empanelled hospitals.

In Peshawar, 28 hospitals have been placed on panel including Khyber Teaching Hospital, Hayatabad Medical Complex, Lady Reading Hospital, IRNUM, Peshawar Institute of Cardiology, Naseerullah Babar Teaching Hospital, Rehman Medical Institute, North West Teaching Hospital, Jinnah Teaching Hospital, Fauji Foundation Hospital and Institute of Kidney Diseases.

Muhammad Asim, spokesperson Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) said free treatment under SPC has been started in the public sector hospital where special ‘SPC Counters’ have been setup to facilitate patients.

“Under SPC, free stents are being provide to heart patients for which they had been paying up to Rs 300, 000 to Rs 500, 000 in the past, ” he said. “Now 40 heart patients are under treatment at LRH and free stents to several of them were provided.”

According to details six hospitals in Chitral, two in Upper Dir, eight in Lower Dir, seven in Malakand, 14 in Swat, five in Batagram, three in Manshera, 10 in Abbottabad, two each hospitals in Buner and Haripur districts, 14 in Swabi, 13 in Mardan, eight in Nowshera, five in Charsadda, two hospitals in Kohat, five in Hangu, six in Bannu, four in Lakki Marwat, six in D I Khan and number of other hospitals have been placed on the panel at individual districts to reach out to the every nook and corner of the province.

An attendant from tribal district Mohmand told reporter that his mother was admitted to Lady Reading Hospital at Corona ward where they were getting Rs 5000 medicines free of charge.

“Earlier, we had to bear these expenses from our resources but under SPC we are provided free treatment. Thanks to Prime Minister Imran and KP Government who deserve appreciation for addressing our longstanding issue of health services, ” he said.

Qaiser Nadeem, another attendant said his brother-in-law was admitted to LRH he was availing free medical facility. “It is great favor to the poor people in the province.”

To run the program successfully, the KP Government has allocated over Rs18 billion in budget 2020-21 to ensure uninterrupted medical services to millions of inhabitants. All people having computerized national identity card (CNIC) with KP’s permanent address are entitled.

“Perhaps nobody can feel the pain which I had gone through when I was diagnosed cancer. I had spent my entire hard-earned money on treatment of the deadly disease, said Khurshid Khan, a cancer patient from Nowshera. “It gave me immense pleasure that thousands of patients like me were now entitled for free treatment under health plus card.”

He said provision of free treatment up to Rs one million for a cancer patient was a considerable amount being extended by PTI government for which people like him were grateful to Prime Minister Imran Khan and KP Government. Besides cancer patients, kidney transplant, heart and others chronic patients were now getting free healthcare services.

It was long awaited and it was direly needed, but could not be done by previous regimes over the decades. However, it was hallmark of the PTI government that went for such a marvellous initiative to mitigate sufferings of hundreds of thousands people in the province.