Pakistan has long lacked in healthcare services and is unable to provide for its 221 million populace. Stuck in the past with outdated and unsanitary conditions, poor management, shortage of medical supplies, and overpricing to name a few, Pakistan spends a mediocre 0.53% of its GDP on healthcare while the UN recommended percentage is 6%. The Healthcare System of Pakistan consists of public and private sectors, where the private sector serves 70% of the population while the rest goes to the public sector. Only a mere 22% of the population benefit from full healthcare coverage which includes mostly bureaucrats, government employees, and officials of armed forces, and the remaining 78% depends on out-of-pocket payments which sometimes can bankrupt families looking for simple medical necessities due to skyrocketing prices. Healthcare in Pakistan is considered as one of the most corrupt sectors with a general unsatisfactory mood of Pakistanis towards health services they are availed. Pakistan has no national health insurance system and is sadly the only country in the world without a National Health Ministry.
Covid-19 shed new light on the inadequacy of our healthcare system. Some horrific statistics of our healthcare system show that Pakistan has 0.98 physicians per 1000 people and 0.6 hospital beds per 1000 people bringing Pakistan on par with countries like Sudan. According to global standards, it is a must that around two doctors and eight nurses’ minimum be available to take care of 1,000 people, according to which, Pakistan is facing a shortage of 0.2 million physicians and 1.4 million nurses. International standards call for 30 ventilators per 100 patients, while Pakistan barely has 2000 ventilators as opposed to its 221 million population. In terms of life expectancy (67 years) Pakistan ranks 148th, infant mortality (57.2 deaths per 1000 births) ranks 25th and Pakistan is one of 2 countries (Afghanistan) where polio is still categorized as an endemic viral infection and is ramped with 74 documented cases in 2020. Ambulance services in Pakistan act more as transporters than first aid medics lacking basic medical expertise working out of small transport vehicles rather than a proper mobile health unit. More often than not, patients die in the ambulance or before the ambulance can reach the hospital due to improper time management in both urban and rural areas especially.
I can present countless statistics showcasing the horror that is Pakistan’s healthcare system but that will do no good. Pakistan’s current government needs to put healthcare as a priority with extensive funding and proper overview and management required.
Increase in health budget by a substantial amount and distribution of resources and finances to municipal levels especially where extensive reports show which areas of healthcare in the district need the resources and funding. For example, in Karachi and NWFP, heroin use is symbiotic with needle sharing which has led to skyrocketing rates of HIV and AIDS in Pakistan. Targeting drug rehabilitation in these areas can also limit and reduce HIV/AIDS in these areas, striking two birds with one stone.
Better facilities are required in both urban and rural areas with professional practitioners. This includes a proper sanitized environment as many hospitals in Pakistan spread more infections then they heal. On top of that, Quakers have infiltrated these facilities and cause unnecessary deaths.
“As many as 500,000 people, including women and children annually die in Pakistan due to medication errors, which include wrong prescription, overdose of drugs, self-medication and adverse effects of medicines,”
(The President of the Pakistan Society of Health-System Pharmacists (PSHP)).
Self-production of medical equipment and medicine whose quality is on par with OECD countries to help reduce the price of health expenditures per patient and in evidently saving countless lives. We can also export these equipments and medicines to other countries as healthcare is defined as a trillion-dollar industry. While health tourism is a 40-billion-dollar industry.
Awareness of health information around the country especially in rural areas where locals believe baseless accusations and ignore treatment, such as polio causes infertility. Health education will make us a cleaner country and should be mandatory.
We have a long way to go before any credible results are shown and it will require both the government and people working side by side but it is possible. Through Faith, Unity, and Discipline, we will persevere.
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