Friday July 19, 2024

Sehat Sahulat Programme in federal territories facing closure: officials

By M Waqar Bhatti
December 08, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Millions of people in Islamabad and other federal territories could be deprived of health services under Sehat Sahulat Program after federal health ministry asked the program management to ‘restrict its activities’ due to completion of PC-1 of the project on June 30, 2023.

Officials in the ministries of health and planning warned on Thursday that completion of 3rd revised Sehat Sahulat Program by June 30, 2023 and scarcity of funds could force to the government to close down the program or restrict its services to ‘vulnerable population’ only, officials said on Thursday.

Ministry of NHSRC logo. — Facebook/Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination Islamabad
Ministry of NHSRC logo. — Facebook/Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination Islamabad

Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHS,R&C) has already directed the management of Sehat Sahulat Program to restrict all activities in view of Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ENEC) decision, which had asked the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives to submit its recommendations for continuation of the project during 2023-24 for consideration.

“The Sehat Sahulat Program as a development project has been completed in June 2023 and now a new PC-1 is required for its continuation or re-launch in the federal capital territories including Islamabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit Baltististan and district Tharparkar of Sindh”, an official of the Planning Commission told The News. A meeting of the steering committee of Sehat Sahulat Program is being convened today with caretaker health minister Dr. Nadeem Jan in chair to decide the fate of health insurance program, which was transformed into universal health coverage for all the citizens of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltististan and district Tharparkar of Sindh.

Officials in the Planning Commission said the Sehat Sahulat Program was originally launched for the ‘vulnerable population’, which is people living below poverty line but later, the program officials transformed it into universal health coverage, without the approval from the relevant forums as universal health coverage could not be provided from the development funding. “At the moment, Sehat Sahulat Program no more exists because ECNEC has yet to give its decision on continuity of the program during current financial year and onwards”, the official said adding that a new PC-1 would be required for the continuation of the program.

To a query, the planning commission official said they were willing to continue provision of health services to the people below the poverty line under this program at least for one year but added that these services could be continued to everybody from the development funding.

On the other hand, officials in the national health services said contract period of some of the employees had expired and they had left the program while many others had not received their salaries.

“Around 20 million people in Islamabad, AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Tharparkar district of Sindh would be deprived of the health services following discontinuation of Sehat Sahulat Program”, the health ministry official said and warned that closure of this program in the federal territories could also compel Sindh and Balochistan to stop its launch for their people.

The health ministry official claimed that ECNEC neither stopped services nor operations of the program saying ECNEC in its last meeting approved discharge of pending liabilities June 30, 2023 for interim period and asked the planning ministry to submit its recommendations on continuity of the program.

“Similarly, universal health insurance decision was approved by the prime minister, respective provincial cabinets and respective national steering committees,” said the official, adding the program is very much sustainable if claims method of co-payments is introduced like Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa did.

Caretaker health minister Dr. Nadeem Jan said they were not closing down the Sehat Sahulat Program and a meeting of program’s steering committee was being held to discuss how to continue the program but added that government was facing issue of funds for continuation of this initiative. “We are considering for a fine-tuning of this program and then to implement it in entire Pakistan. All the issues regarding Sehat Sahulat Program will come into discussion at the steering committee meeting”, he said and added that interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar was also in favour of keep the program continue in a sustainable manner.