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June 7, 2020

Peanuts for new schemes in health budget

Lahore

June 7, 2020

Islamabad : With the federal government focusing on the completion of the ongoing projects in light of the pandemic-triggered economic crisis, the next budget has peanuts for new health initiatives.

According to the 2020-21 Public Sector Development Programme documents to be unveiled in the National Assembly on June 12, the National Health Services and Regulation Ministry will get Rs14 billion in the next fiscal beginning on July 1.

Of the funding, which is below one per cent of the Gross Domestic Product against the World Health Organisation’s target of six per cent, the lion’s share (83 per cent) i.e. Rs11.589 billion, including Rs2.97 billion foreign aid, will go to 27 ongoing projects, while a meagre sum of Rs2.41 billion will be spent on the new ones totalling 24.

The overall outlay for healthcare in the next fiscal will be slightly more than the previous two years’.

It came to Rs12.784 billion in 2018-19 and went up to Rs13.377 billion in the next year.

And in 2020-21, Rs14 billion will be doled out to the health services ministry, which oversees Islamabad’s PIMS and Polyclinic hospitals, National Institute of Health, programmes against tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, malaria and hepatitis, and other federal health subjects in the post-devolution regime.

As for the ongoing health initiatives to be funded in the next financial year, the most money i.e. Rs4.87 billion will go to the ‘Sehat Sahulat’ Programme, an initiative of the ruling PTI to provide free medical treatment to underprivileged segments of society in the country.

It will be followed Rs2.206 billion for the Expanded Programme on Immunisation, which is meant to protect children against vaccine preventable diseases, including polio, tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and measles.

Major among others, which have fetched funding in 2020-21, are the establishment of a 200-bed Centre of Excellence for Gynaecology and Obstetrics in Rawalpindi (Rs977.5 million), the extension of intensive care department of the Mother and Child Health Central and Children Hospital in PIMS (Rs854.14 million), the construction of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud Hospital in Tarlai area on the outskirts of Islamabad (Rs510 million), upgradation of the rural health facility and strengthening of the district health department (Rs756.61 million), National Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Programme in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Rs333.94 million), purchase of new electro-medical equipment at the National Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in Islamabad (Rs294 million) and establishment of safe blood transfusion facilities in Islamabad (Rs235 million), replacement and upgradation of HVAC plant room equipment and allied works in PIMS (Rs179 million), National Maternal, Population Welfare Programme in Gilgit-Baltistan (Rs165.75 million), upgradation of facilities in PIMS (Rs156.44 million) and Neonatal and Child Health Programme in Gilgit-Baltistan (Rs154.96 million).

A look at the new initiatives to be executed in 2020-21 shows that the largest chunk of funds (Rs 701.25 million) will be spent on the upgradation of the Polyclinic hospital’s radiology department.

The other major funding include Rs403 million for the procurement of MRI equipment for PIMS Radiology Department, Rs200 million for the strengthening of points of entry of Pakistan and Directorate of Central Health Establishment, Rs150.43 million for strengthening Polyclinic’s Ophthalmology Department and Rs114 million for the establishment of Polyclinic-II in G-11/3.

Officials at the health ministry regret low budgetary allocations and say limited funding would adversely impact on the efforts for furthering the cause of preventive and curative health.

Doctors at PIMS and Polyclinic also fear that unavailability of funds will considerably slow down the upgradation of the two major hospitals.