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July 4, 2019

Private hospitals, SHCC at loggerheads over price regulation, grading of healthcare facilities

Karachi

July 4, 2019

Private hospitals and clinics owners at a meeting with the Sindh Health Care Commission (SHCC) have supported action against malpractices in the healthcare sector but strongly resisted the idea of the grading of private hospitals and clinics by the commission and the regulation of prices of their healthcare services by the provincial regulator.

A heated debate erupted between officials of the Sindh Health Care Commission (SHCC) and office-bearers of the Sindh Private Hospitals and Clinics Welfare Association at the Commissioner Karachi office on Wednesday when the health regulator proposed the grading of private hospitals on the basis of their service delivery, price regulation and elimination of malpractices by private hospitals, especially overcharging patients.

“Representatives of private hospitals’ association argued that instead of exerting pressure on them for price regulation and their grading in accordance with their service delivery, the SHCC and the government should focus on improving the performance of public hospitals so that the patient could avail quality health services at the government’s expense instead of visiting private hospitals,” one of the participants of the meeting told The News on Wednesday.

The hospital owner, who requested anonymity, said private hospitals’ owners were highly agitated as neither the Karachi commissioner nor any higher official from the Sindh health department attended the meeting, which was presided over by Additional Commissioner Karachi Ghulam Murtaza Memon. He said the private hospitals’ owners advised the health regulator to focus more on the public health sector instead of harassing them in the garb of implementing regulations.

He said the association’s president, Dr Junaid Ali Shah, and another member, Dr Sadia Rizvi, argued that they had served as health ministers of the Sindh province, but nobody from the health department, neither the provincial health minister nor the health secretary, attended the meeting, while the host, Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Shalwani, was also not present at the meeting, which shows the authorities’ lack of seriousness on the issue.

“Private hospitals’ owners also questioned the authority of the SHCC, saying that during the baby Nashwa case, the provincial government as well the legal and judicial system also intervened, police arrested senior professors and doctors by encroaching upon the authority of the commission,” the hospital owner said and added that they also raised the issue of media trials of the hospitals and medical fraternity, which was resulting in defamation and harassment.

Issues of increasing costs of healthcare services due to the rapid devaluation of the Pakistani rupee against the US dollar, growing taxes on the hospitals, commercial electricity and gas tariffs and the poor economic situation also came into discussion during the meeting, and hospital owners asked the SHCC to provide a level-playing field for all healthcare establishments, including those run by NGOs, and enjoying tax exemptions.

On the other hand, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) SHCC Dr Minhaj Qidwai said it was an introductory meeting on the issue of price regulation with all stakeholders and it was aimed at sensitizing them about improving service delivery, ending malpractices, provision of better healthcare services to the patients and eliminating disparities in the prices of healthcare services.

Dr Minhaj Qidwai recommended the formation of a pricing committee comprising all stakeholders and categorisation of hospitals taking into account different variables. Additional Commissioner Karachi Ghulam Murtaza Memon stressed the need for price regulation for the common man.

CEO SHCC Dr Minhaj Qidwai proposed to adopt some rational policy regarding healthcare service delivery so that these services could become affordable for all. Representatives of the Private Hospitals Association shared the challenges being faced by them.

The meeting concluded with the note that the Private Hospitals Association would share their views within two weeks. The next meeting will be held in the last week of July to continue with the deliberations.

Meanwhile, the SHCC said it had started delivering warning letters to the healthcare establishments in the city for mandatory registration, warning them that without the mandatory registration with the health regulator, no healthcare establishment could operate in the province.

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