Ignoring Healthcare

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Arsalan Sayad
A surprise visit by the Balochistan health minister to Quetta Civil Hospital left not only the facility’s medical staff but the minister himself in shock. The Minister expressed dismay at the absence of staff members and the subpart hygiene conditions he witnessed. These revelations would not, however, come as a shock for Pakistan’s poor and sick, who are dependent on government-run hospitals to provide them with quality healthcare. That same day, in Thar, an outbreak of viral infections, waterborne diseases and malnutrition claimed the lives of at least four more children in Civil Hospital, Mithai. Parents bemoaned the shortage of medicines and other facilities in the hospitals they went to. They said the civil hospitals and stopped providing free ambulance service to and from their villages. But it is not just Balochistan. Healthcare seems to be a national afterthought. Pakistan ranks 154 among 195 countries in both quality and accessibility of healthcare, lagging behind Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. While the previous government claimed to introduce large-scale reforms and “mega-schemes” in the health sector, and the current government has also listed healthcare as one of its top priorities, the ground realities often speak otherwise. Recently, in lahore’s jinnah Hospital, costly medical equipment was seen stored outside, while its cardiac surgery unit failed to meet its second deadline of completion. In Peshawar, which has recently witnessed a measles outbreak, doctors complain of the shortage of medical facilities, staff and beds at lady reading Hospital. Health and education are two of the main indicators against which human capital is measured. Although resources often go to tertiary healthcare facilities, more emphasis should be paid to primary healthcare, preventable diseases and maternal and infact mortality. These provide the foundation of any country’s healthcare system. Change takes times. After years of neglect, it would not be realistic to expect miracles overnight. But the longer we take to implement reform, the more lives will be lost to neglect.