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Friday July 19, 2024

Most of Rs27bn health funding to go to new projects

By Jamila Achakzai
June 12, 2024
Finance Minister Senator Muhammad Aurangzeb addresses at an event on June 11, 2024. — APP
Finance Minister Senator Muhammad Aurangzeb addresses at an event on June 11, 2024. — APP

Islamabad: In a significant boost to healthcare development, the federal government is poised to double the national health services ministry's current development budget in the upcoming financial year, with around three-fourths of the funding going to the new projects.

The ministry will get Rs27bn for development projects in 2024-25 against the outgoing fiscal's Rs13.1 bn, according to the next Public Sector Development Programme to be unveiled by federal finance minister Muhammad Aurangzeb in the National Assembly today (Wednesday).

Of the healthcare budgetary allocations, 71.92 per cent (Rs19.419bn including Rs295 million foreign loan) will go to 14 new projects, while the rest (Rs7.581bn including Rs590 million foreign loan) will be spent on the ongoing ones totalling 27. Pakistan's healthcare spending amounts to merely one percent of its gross domestic product, falling significantly short of the six percent benchmark recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Since the centre devolved its healthcare responsibilities to the provinces on June 30, 2011, in line with the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the National Health Services ministry's scope has been limited to overseeing a few key healthcare institutions and programmes in Islamabad, including PIMS and Polyclinic hospitals, National Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, National Institute of Health, and initiatives focused on tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and other federal health concerns.

An examination of the ministry's new projects slated for funding in 2024-25 reveals a significant allocation of Rs7bn towards the Prime Minister's National Programme for Elimination of Hepatitis C, followed by Rs4 bn for stroke intervention and critical care expansion at PIMS.

Further funding priorities include Rs2.05bn for equipment procurement to establish a cancer hospital in Islamabad, Rs2bn for enhancing cardiology facilities at Polyclinic, Rs584 million for digitalising and upgrading IT infrastructure in federal hospitals and the NHS ministry, Rs295 million for the National Health Support Project aimed at achieving universal health coverage in federating units, and Rs150 million for hiring a consultant to conduct a feasibility study on hospital establishment, renovation, and medical equipment procurement in Islamabad, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Major among the NHS ministry's ongoing health initiatives to get funds from the federal government next year are the establishment of a cancer hospital in Islamabad (Rs1.06bn), the last PTI government's flagship health insurance initiative Sehat Sahulat Programme (Rs1 bn) and the establishment of 200-bed accident and emergency department at PIMS (Rs800 million).

The other ongoing healthcare projects to be funded by the federal government in 2024-25 are meant to improve healthcare infrastructure, services, and research in various areas, including radiology, infectious diseases, mother and child health, and population management.

They include up-gradation of radiology department at Shaikh Zayed Hospital Lahore (Rs609.65 million), establishment of the King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Hospital in Tarlai area on Islamabad's outskirts (Rs595 million), provision of utilities for the establishment of King Hamad University of Nursing and Allied Sciences Islamabad by the government to Bahrin (Rs380.99 million), strengthening of the mother and child health emONC (emergency obstetric and newborn care) 24/7 service in Islamabad's suburban area of Bhara Kahu (Rs378.97 million), purchase of electro-medical equipment for NIRM (Rs307.6 million), establishment of an infectious disease laboratory for handling pathogens, research and development for indigenous virus and bacteria after Covid-19 pandemic (Rs300 million), implementation of the National Action Plan on Population 2021-26 (Rs300 million), establishment of Jinnah Hospital (Polyclinic-II) in Islamabad's sector G-11/3 (Rs300 million), establishment of four basic health units in Islamabad (Rs200 million), and development of the Integrated Diseases Surveillance and Response System (Rs200 million).