Friday June 14, 2024

KP to start free healthcare by Jan 31

By Arshad Aziz Malik
November 24, 2020

PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will become the first province by January, 31, 2021, to have free healthcare facilities for all its citizens as the entire population will be able to get free treatment in 500 public and private hospitals across the country.

More than 38 million people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will get benefit from free healthcare. The uniqueness of the health card will be that the person holding the CNIC of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will get treatment free of cost across the country.

Overall 6.59 million families will receive health coverage of Rs one million per year. However, it will not cover outdoor treatment, liver and bone marrow transplant in the initial phase. The provision of free medical services to the people of the entire province will cost only Rs 18 billion.

Another unique feature of the package is that the expensive treatment of liver and bone marrow transplant is also being made a part of the package soon on the special directive of the KP chief minister for which a contract will be signed with Al-Shifa Hospital, Islamabad.

The State Life Insurance Corporation, already selected after a competitive bidding process, will be paid Rs2, 849 per family annually. The second bidder had given a rate of Rs3,390 per family, which was rejected being the highest.

Describing the health card as his life's dream, Chief Minister Mahmood Khan termed the scheme the flagship project of the PTI government which would not only provide free and quality healthcare facilities to the people, but also help improve living standard of the general public by reducing poverty in the province.

“The PTI government is striving hard to ensure maximum possible facilities to the people of the province," the CM said, adding that the Sehat Insaf Card was launched in the province by the previous provincial government on a limited scale and keeping in view the importance and benefits of the scheme, the present government had extended this facility to 100 per cent population of the province.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had already inaugurated first phase of the healthcare in Malakand Division on November, 6, 2020. In the first phase, each family in five districts of Zone-1, Chitral, Malakand, Swat, Upper Dir and Lower Dir, has been provided free health facilities up to Rs1 million per annum. However, in the second phase, Zone-2, including Shangla, Kohistan, Battagram, Mansehra, Torgar and Abbottabad, will be provided free of cost healthcare facility in the current month of November.

Similarly, in December, the third phase would be launched in Zone-3 and 4, including the districts of Haripur, Buner, Swabi, Mardan, Nowshera, Charsadda and Peshawar. It will be followed by southern parts of KP, including Kohat, Hangu, Karak, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Tank and Dera Ismail Khan by January, 31, 2021, when the entire population of the province will receive free indoor medical services.

The government has allocated Rs18 billion for the project and all the families registered with NADRA would be the beneficiaries of the programme.

KP Health Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra told this scribe that the government had allocated Rs18 billion for the flagship project and it would be implemented across the KP province for 100 per cent population by January 31, 2021. He said the government had signed an agreement with the State Life Insurance Corporation for a period of five years. However, liver and bone marrow transplant will be included in the package soon and negotiations with different hospitals in this regard are under way, he said, adding that both the treatments were quite expensive but the government would make them part of the package.

When asked about double benefit of the government employees in which they reimburse medical expense and also receive medical allowance in their monthly salaries, the provincial health minister said the health insurance programme had nothing to do with the medical allowance for government employees. This facility is for everyone, from rich or poor.

Regarding the provision of government funds to hospitals, he said the budgets of hospitals would not be reduced. “In fact, we are working on increasing the operational non-salary budget for government hospitals and giving them greater financial decision making to enable them spend money at hospital level through healthcare committees headed by the MS of the hospital," the minister added.

Taimur said: "We are also going to allow hospitals to keep a large chunk of receipts for this purpose. The insurance payments to hospitals will further enhance funding available to them."

“The operational budget of hospitals needs to be higher, and so through this one intervention alone, the government is increasing healthcare spending by almost 15 per cent and creating competition. The merged districts package will be enhanced to match the new Sehat Card Plus provincial package," he said. It is pertinent to mention that former Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak had initiated a free healthcare programme in 2015 for the needy people in a few districts of the province.