Assuring that ‘Qaumi Sehat Card Program’ would not be scrapped by the coalition government, Federal Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel Friday said.

Assuring that ‘Qaumi Sehat Card Program’ would not be scrapped by the coalition government, Federal Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel Friday said services being provided to people under the Qaumi Sehat Card Program will continue despite issues with the scheme, and claimed that Sindh government was also considering to launch its own health insurance scheme for the people living below poverty line.

“Rumours are being spread that we are going to scrap the Sehat Card Scheme. This is not true and no such decision has been made. We don’t believe taking actions on basis of political differences. Recently I issued a supplementary grant despite the fact that this scheme is full of flaws”, Abdul Qadir Patel told newsmen at Karachi Press club (KPC) on Friday.

Prior to talking to media, the Federal Health Minister held a detailed meeting with the KPC office-bearers, as well as, its health and environment committee, and listened to their issues and assured them his full support in resolving their problems.

Secretary Karachi Press Club (KPC) Muhammad Rizwan Bhatti requested the federal minister to introduce Sehat Card scheme for the members of the club, upon which Qadir Patel assured the him that he would consider the same for the journalist fraternity.

He also assured that issues facing in the housing scheme of 211 members of KPC would be resolved soon.

Pointing out the flaws in the Qaumi Sehat Card Scheme, he maintained that every person has been given the health card irrespective of his or her social status, adding that even the richest people who could afford medical treatment on their own expense were enjoying the free treatment facilities, which could overburden on the health system. However, he added that despite these issues in the health program, they have decided to keep it continuing keeping in view the sufferings of poor people.

Commenting on World Health Organization’s recent report in which it said that several countries including Pakistan underreported deaths due to COVID-19, the health minister categorically denied that Pakistan underreported the COVID-19 deaths, saying there could be 5000 to 6000 more deaths during the pandemic in Pakistan but it could never be around 260,000, the figure quoted by the WHO experts.

“It is very easy for me to blame the previous government that they hid the actual deaths during the COVID-19 but I’m not going to do that. There are around 31,000 deaths due to COVID-19 and this figure is very close to be accurate. We have an excellent system to count the mortalities as we even check the record of graveyards where people are laid to rest. There could be a difference of 5000 to 6000, which could not be reported due to a variety of reasons but claiming that the figure was eight times higher than actual is not true,” he added.

Hinting at deregulating the prices of medicines in Pakistan, he said bringing down prices of medicines was a challenge as normally, it is very hard to lower the prices of products and services in Pakistan. He added that they were working on an ‘alternate strategy’ to deal with this issue.

“We are working on a strategy where there would be no need to fix prices by the government or the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan. By deregulating the prices, an environment of competition would automatically result in lowering the prices of medicines in the country,” he informed. He also claimed that he turned down a summary to increase the price of a drug recently, saying he could not overburden the people within a few weeks of assuming his office.

When asked about Sindh government’s objections on Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC), he said there is no representation of Sindh in the PMC and added that this institution is not capable of conducting Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT) of around two hundred thousand students, simultaneously.

“Actually, the previous government established it through an Act of Parliament and in this regard, we need to make an amendment in the law. We are discussing this issue with the coalition partners, and once we agreed to an appropriate amendment regarding PMC, we would get the law amended as per the aspirations of the provinces, parents and students”, he added.

Responding to a query regarding three major Karachi’s hospitals including Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) and National Institute of Child Health (NICH), Abdul Qadir Patel said they would sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Sindh government to let it continue running and managing these institutions.

“The previous government kept this issue in limbo and despite planning to take over these health facilities, it provided no funds for these health facilities. Sindh government is running these facilities excellently and people from entire Pakistan are coming to these institutions for treatment and we are not going to interrupt it,” he maintained.

This news was originally published by Business Recorder.

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