Monday April 22, 2024

‘Health expenses push 400,000 households into poverty every year’

By M. Waqar Bhatti
March 12, 2023

Out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures have become a major financial burden in Pakistan, where more than 400,000 households fall into poverty every year due to expenditures incurred on the treatment of one or more family members, officials associated with the Indus Hospital & Health Network (IHHN) said on Saturday.

“Inaccessibility to treatment has resulted in the deaths of more than 460,000 children under the age of five due to cancer, malnutrition and infectious diseases, and over 200,000 women die from pregnancy complications and childbirth,” The IHHN’s Syed Mashhood Rizvi said while addressing a fundraiser of the health network in connection with this year’s holy month of Ramazan.

“The tragedy is that over 70 per cent of these deaths are preventable with timely and adequate resources. Compounding the hopeless situation is the extremely high cost of average healthcare charges in the country for different healthcare services, all of which fall beyond the earning capacity of most of the population.”

He urged philanthropists and people from all walks of life to donate generously to the IHHN for the healthcare needs of the suffering humanity.

He said that in the 15 years since its inception, the IHHN has created a nationwide healthcare system built on hope, sincerity and love for humanity, and is dedicated to serving the most vulnerable, including women, children and the elderly.

“Presently, the network is serving free-of-charge holistic quality care to over 500,000 patients across Pakistan. Over 70 per cent of these patients are treated through Zakat,” he added.

“In the past year, more than 1,200 children have been registered for cancer treatment, 57 children have received a cochlear implant, more than 5,100 neonatal admissions have occurred, and over 12,900 patients have been registered for physical therapy and rehabilitation.”

He explained how patient volumes have increased by four to 20 per cent for inpatient, outpatient, emergency and diagnostic services, and gave an overview of the IHHN’s nationwide emergency relief response during the devastating floods last year.

Elaborating on the IHHN’s Ramazan Campaign 2023, Rizvi spoke on the glory of giving in Islam. “The IHHN has experienced a 42 per cent increase in patient load in the last three years, and is solely fuelled by its donor base,” he said.

“The IHHN’s Ramazan target is an ambitious Rs4 billion, with one-third of the amount being funded through Zakat donations. The sole purpose of these funds is to benefit the underserved and underprivileged communities of Pakistan who are growing daily in these difficult times,” he added.

“To continue bringing hope to patients in their times of despair, we look to our generous supporters for help,” said Rizvi. He introduced the IHHN’s newest initiative, ‘Meer-e-Karwaan Hum Hain’, Pakistan’s largest youth-led Ramazan campaign that will include over 300 schools and universities, and more than 25,000 students and youths across the country.

Salim Razzak Tabani, chairman of the fundraising committee of the IHHN’s Board of Directors, said that seven months ago the most devastating floods had occurred, during which over 60 to 70 per cent of Sindh was submerged, creating a very challenging time for the people and the country as a whole.

“During this time we’re given a command from Allah (SWT): when difficulty and pain arrives, we must lift our hands in Dua and give charity with open hearts to help those in need,” he said.

“Today we stand before you once again, asking for your support in making Indus’s Ramazan Campaign 2023 a beacon of hope for countless patients in need by spreading our message to donors and championing our cause.”

He also lauded the Sindh government for standing with the IHHN since the beginning, and for committing to covering 35 per cent of the IHHN’s costs in the coming year.

Addressing the guests via videoconferencing, IHHN President Dr Abdul Bari Khan reflected on the IHHN’s journey to becoming a nationwide network due to the support of the media, and the remarkable donors, supporters and employees.

Most of all, he thanked God for all the success Indus has seen, and its positive impact on the lives of countless patients and their families. However, he urged the guests for their continued support, particularly given the current challenging financial times in the country.

“The IHHN is the country’s need of the hour, comprising 15 hospitals, four regional blood centres, four physical rehabilitation clinics, 36 primary care sites, and multiple public health initiatives across Pakistan,” he said.

“In addition to providing medical care, the IHHN is actively filling Pakistan’s healthcare gaps through the Indus University of Health Sciences and the Indus Research Centre,” he added.

“With the high population growth and current economic decline, the demand for accessible quality healthcare is skyrocketing, unable to be met by the low supply of medical care and competent healthcare professionals.”