About District Headquarters Hospital

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The Naya Pakistan National Health Card is a fine initiative and the kind that a country like Pakistan is in desperate need of. That PM Imran Khan takes the health sector very seriously has been clear since well before the time he won the last general election. His personal initiative that resulted in the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital, and the Sehat Sahulat Program, which was first rolled out in KP in the last electoral cycle, testify to this fact. He’s also very right to worry about the kind of criminal wastage of national resources that occurs in most public sector hospitals in this country. So, his mission to transform the healthcare system of the country is truly commendable.
However, some of his ideas are sometimes cause for serious worry. The threat that the government would shut down all district headquarters hospitals, for example, because doctors allegedly leave them deserted, is misguided and not reflective of on-ground reality. It’s no doubt true that said hospitals are anything but the picture of perfect service delivery, but to say that they are deserted, implying that they serve no worthwhile purpose whatsoever, amounts to stretching facts a little too much. Also, to expect the private sector to set up medical facilities across the length and breadth of the country, and then provide cheap treatment to the poorest people, misses the facts by a fair margin.
The reality is that district hospitals are most people’s best bet when it comes to getting any sort of medical treatment in this country. That’s why they are crowded – more like overflowing with people – almost all the time; and not in any way give a deserted look as the PM implied. And while there is an urgent need to improve the present infrastructure in almost every possible way, it’s not immediately apparent how shutting down what is still working, though not ideally, and going for an alternative that amounts to wishful thinking more than anything else is going to make anything better for anybody at all.
There’s also the little detail that if government-appointed doctors do not show up for their official duties, then the government is as much, if not more, to blame as the nonserious doctors. Therefore, while the PM’s efforts to revolutionise the healthcare sector are appreciated, his plans to shut down the existing system, instead of improving it, are cause for considerable concern as well.