Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan had promised that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government will ensure the provision of free emergency health services to the patients at government hospitals in the province.
On September 4, 2013, during the inauguration ceremony of the free emergency treatment service at the Lady Reading Hospital (LRH), PTI Chief Imran Khan said that his party’s government in KP was giving top priority to the development of the health sector for better patient care.
He said that Rs.1 billion had been allocated to provide free services to the patients requiring urgent treatment as part of the PTI’s agenda of ‘change’.
“We have begun several reforms in health, education and other social sectors to trickle down benefits of the government’s measures to the people at grass root levels,” he had said.
There are several teaching hospitals in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including Ayub Teaching Hospital in Abbottabad, Hayat Abad Medical Complex, Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar, Khyber Teaching Hospital Peshawar, Bannu Medical Complex, Mardan Medical Complex, Qazi Humaira Ahmad Medical Complex in Nowshera. Moreover, every district has its own hospital.
When contacted, KP’s Minister for Health, Shahram Tarakai, he said that the PTI’s government has fulfilled its promise of the provision of emergency treatment and careful evaluation of patients in emergency situations while providing them with available medication.
He said that both health and education sectors were ignored by the former governments while the PTI’s government has prioritised health and education sectors.
The minister said that emergency units in all teaching hospitals have been upgraded with all necessary facilities. He said, “PTI has established a strict discipline at hospitals. There was a common practice at hospitals that trainee doctors would check patients while senior doctors would ignore their duties and rush to their private clinics instead.” He said that a biometric system has been introduced in hospitals to keep a proper check on doctors, so the patient can be properly examined and provided with appropriate care.
He said that the KP Health Department has completed seven mega projects that cost Rs. 2778 million in three years. The mega projects are; Institute of Cardiology in Peshawar, Peshawar Graduate Medical Institute, Gomal Medical College in D I Khan, Bacha Khan Medical College Mardan, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Children Hospital in Mardan, Children and Maternity Hospital in Charssadda and up-gradation of Bacha Khan Medical Complex Mardan.
When contacted, Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz Member of KP Assembly, Aamna Sarfraz, also a member of the standing committee on health, she said that the PTI government has focused on infrastructure while ignoring the basic facilities required by the patients.
She said that the PTI government promised the provision of free healthcare facilities in public sector hospitals but the conditions in emergency wards are worst as no improvement was recorded in emergency services.
She said, “Still, the patients pay Rs. 20 fee to visit outdoor wards and buy medicine from private pharmacies. Where is the ‘free treatment?”
The PML-N lawmaker said that the opposition parties had voiced their concerns several times regarding the abysmal health care being provided in emergency wards, but their complaints and concerns went unnoticed by the authorities.
“I think that the PTI has not fulfilled its any promise in KP,” she added.
A senior doctor in Hayatabad Medical Complex, who wishes to go anonymous, told Truth Tracker that no improvement has been observed in the emergency services provided by the hospital. “The patients pay Rs 20 for the checkup at emergency wards and then purchase medicine from private shops as the required medicines are not available in the hospital.” The government had allocated Rs 1 billion in 2016-17 but the funds have not been utilised properly, he added.
KP Health Department’s former official, Pir Adnan Sajid told Truth Tracker that the emergency health services in KP teaching hospitals are far better than other provinces, including the capital, and after a recent induction of over 900 doctors both male and female, the situation will continue to improve.
He said, “Under previous governments, patients would struggle to find a bed in hospitals. Now, the doctor’s behaviour towards patients has improved. They are treated with care and respect.”
Taimur Kamal, Coordinator Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN), said, “The KP government is just focusing on teaching hospitals in Peshawar while completely ignoring hospitals in other districts.”
He cites Mardan Medical Complex as an example where doctors are unavailable in the emergency unit. He said that due to lack of facilities in other districts’ hospitals, a minor emergency case is referred to Peshawar’s hospitals from there. He further said that medicines are not available for emergency patients.
Truth Tracker’s findings after visits to hospitals and interviews with various persons related to the health sector reveal that the health infrastructure in KP has improved but the promise of providing free emergency health facilities has been compromised.