PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is unlikely to extend the Sehat Sahulat Programme to the population of the whole province as announced by Chief Minister Mahmood Khan in early April.
A meeting held on April 8 with chief minister in the chair had decided to extend the free healthcare programme to the population of the entire province from next fiscal year. However, the government is unlikely to materialise the commitment as there are no preparations to make arrangements for it.
The programme, launched in 2017, initially covered 1.8 million families but later it was extended to 2.4 million families, providing free hospitalisation services to eight members of each family. So far, about 160,000 patients have been benefited from the programme at the government and public sector hospitals, costing Rs4 billion.
Health dept needs to do a lot of homework before extension of programme
The programme has been widely acclaimed and government has replicated it in Punjab and parts of Sindh and Balochistan to extend free health facilities to the deserving population.
Under the scheme, each of the families has been issued Sehat Insaf Card to get free diagnostic and treatment services.
The government would need to provide Rs10.2 billion to cover 4,998,718 families of the province. However, there is complete silence about the extension of the programme and indications show that the entire population is unlikely to be included in the scheme in the next fiscal year, starting from July 2019.
For extension of the programme, the health department needs to do a lot of homework and obtain the data of population from the Nadra besides devising modus operandi for distribution of cards among the people throughout the province.
The SSP, headquartered in Peshawar, has been facing issues like shortage of staff to oversee the operations and as result some 500,000 deserving people, identified during the past one year, are yet to get the cards.
A provincial lawmaker of the ruling PTI told Dawn that there was no progress on the extension of the programme despite announcement by the chief minister. “Our people have been demanding provision of the SICs to get free treatment and we look towards the government to expedite the process,” he added.
The lawmaker said that health department required technical inputs from Nadra to ascertain information about the residents of the province prior to implementation of the decision.
“Even the minutes of the meeting, held early April, have not been shared with the quarters concerned. We fear the programme will not get extension as promised by the government,” he added.
He said that even the finance department agreed to allocate the required funds. “We have not given any directives to the officials concerned about the coverage of the whole population and the time is nearing for the budget to be announced,” he added.
The MPA said that after written directives from the government, the health department would make a summary for approval of the cabinet. He said that the SSP covered complicated diseases, diabetes, hepatitis, orthopaedic, heart-related illnesses besides appendics, hernia, tonsillitis and women and children ailments owing to which it became popular among the people.
“We have been urging the government to speed up the process to be able to help our electorates,” he said.