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June 9, 2019

Fiscal strains to halve health spending


June 9, 2019

Islamabad : Already spending far less on healthcare than what is advocated by the World Health Organisation, the federal government has planned to halve budgetary allocations for the health sector in the next fiscal citing severe financial squeeze as the reason.

As reflected in the 2019-20 federal budget documents to be unveiled in the National Assembly on June 11, the federal health expenditure, which are below one per cent of the Gross Domestic Product against the WHO’s target of six per cent, will go down from Rs28.588 billion in the current fiscal to Rs13.377 billion in the next beginning on July 1.

Ironically, the spending cut comes despite the handover of Islamabad’s major health facilities to the National Health Services and Regulation Ministry last year following the disbanding of the Capital Administration and Development Division, which used to have their administrative control in the post-devolution regime.

The health services ministry, which oversees PIMS and Polyclinic hospitals, National Institute of Health, programmes against TB, HIV/AIDS, malaria and hepatitis, and other federal health subjects, will get slightly more money for the ongoing projects in 2019-20 than the new ones.

Of the Rs13.377 funds, Rs6.81 billion, including Rs2.3 billion foreign aid, will go to the 13 ongoing schemes and Rs6.57 billion, including Rs0.49 billion foreign aid, to the 32 new ones.

Among major allocations for the ongoing projects are Rs3 billion for the Prime Minister’s National Health Programme’s Phase-II, Rs2.21 billion for Expanded Programme on Immunisation, Rs550 million for Islamabad General Hospital, Tarlai, Rs333.94 million for National Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Programme, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Rs238.71 million for safe blood transfusion services, Rs154.96 million for National Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Programme, Gilgit-Baltistan, Rs125.2 million Strengthening of Health Services Academy, Islamabad, and Rs71.7 million for Common Unit to Manage Global Fund.

As for new initiatives, the land acquisition for the National University of Medical Sciences will fetch the most funds i.e. Rs2 billion although the health services ministry has nothing to do with it.

The other major funding include Rs613.34 million for replacing and purchasing equipment for Polyclinic hospital through Japan’s counter value fund, Rs545 million for replacing/upgrading equipment for the room of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning plant room at PIMS, Rs538 million for upgrading Polyclinic hospital’s radiology department, Rs465.95 million for extending intensive care department of the Mother-Child Health Centre and Children Hospital at PIMS, Rs316.73 million for procuring equipment for PIMS’s ophthalmology department, Rs300 million for upgrading Islamabad’s rural health facilities and strengthening health department for effective care provision, Rs272.84 million for Gilgit-Baltistan population welfare programme, Rs150 million each for strengthening Pakistan’s points of entry and Directorate of Central Health Establishments, and for upgrading PIMS facilities, Rs145.76 million for Azad Jammu and Kashmir population welfare programme, Rs120.61 million for strengthening technical capacity of the health services ministry, and Rs100 million for upgrading the PIMS’s gastroenterology department and replacing equipment for advanced treatment of liver and gastrointestinal problems.

Regretting only one out of every 100 rupees the government spends in a fiscal year goes to healthcare, the ministry officials resent drastic cut in the already poor budgetary allocations for the health sector.

They fear that lower health spending will adversely impact on the efforts for furthering the cause of preventive and curative health.

DoctoRsat PIMS and Polyclinic also feel let down by ‘paltry’ funds saying it’s ironic that many key hospital projects will get no or little funds in the next fiscal, especially when better patient care is a major slogan of the ruling PTI They say unavailability of funds will considerably slow down the upgrade of the two hospitals.

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