Patients denied life-saving treatments

Lack of funds for Sehat Card Plus deprives critically ill, low-income patients of chance at recovery


For household’s struggling to accommodate sustenance, housing, utility bills and children’s education within their limited monthly budgets, healthcare is often neglected and expenditure on treatments is minimal however, when a beloved family member is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, the unavailability of free of cost treatment can quickly push any afflicted family into bankruptcy.

For instance, Shahid Khan, a 25-year-old local from Charsadda, had brought his ailing father for treatment at the Peshawar Institute of Cardiology. “My father is a cardiac patient and the doctors have suggested that an angioplasty is the most suitable treatment for him. However, I have been asked by the hospital to immediately deposit Rs150,000 for the stent,” frustratingly said Khan, who further retorted that paying taxes was pointless when the money could not be utilized to save the lives of the needy.

“There is no way my budget can spare such a large sum of money immediately. At this point in time, I have been forced to decide between giving up all my money and losing my father to this disease,” cried Khan.

However, Shahid Khan was not the only citizen facing such a heartbreaking choice since thousands of other low-income families in K-P were suffering a similar predicament after the caretaker government discontinued the Sehat Card Plus’s services in public and private hospitals alike.

According to Raza Khan, a social worker, the Sehat Card Plus was a revolutionary plan since it aimed to offer free of cost treatment to all patients across every private and government hospital.

“However, recently a lack of funding for crediting dues to an insurance company has led to a limitation of free services in hospitals like the Lady Reading Hospital, Khyber Teaching Hospital, Hayatabad Medical Complex and the Peshawar Cardiology Hospital, which have started denying treatments for cancer, and other chronic illnesses and are only providing emergency care,” said Khan.

“Moreover, earlier the program had a budget of Rs28 billion and was covering more than seventy percent of K-P’s population but now its budget has been reduced to Rs8 billion and only 20,000 patients are receiving free treatment. The government has to pay Rs24 billion to the insurance company, and the late minister had agreed to give Rs2 billion every month but due to a lack of funds, the dues could not be cleared and services have been limited,” confirmed Khan, who further informed that the insurance company provided medical coverage worth Rs2 billion to the Lady Reading Hospital, Rs1.5 billion to the Peshawar Institute of Cardiology, Rs600 million to the Hayatabad Medical Complex, Rs500 million to the Khyber Teaching Hospital and more than Rs400 million to the district hospitals.

“It is a pity that the government has the funds to afford protocol expenses worth millions of rupees, but it cannot afford to pay for the free treatment of poor people,” criticized Khan.

Speaking to the Express Tribune on the matter, Ahmad Rasool Bangash, Finance Minister of K-P said, “The caretaker government is keen to release the funds to the concerned insurance company soon so that the free treatment program can resume.”

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