Prime Minister Imran Khan stated on Friday that the government would close all district headquarters (DHQ) hospitals and allow the private sector to provide health treatment to people in remote areas via the Naya Pakistan National Health Card.
The prime minister expressed sadness that the DHQ hospitals were deserted due to a lack of doctors during the launch of the health card at a ceremony at the Governor House. He questioned, “Why should the government invest money if doctors aren’t travelling to the DHQ hospitals to help the people?”
The health card will be available in Lahore division from January 1 (today), and all families in Punjab would be covered by March 2022, according to the prime minister. The PM said the government would spend Rs400 billion to provide health insurance to 30 million families in Punjab, calling it a significant step toward the formation of a welfare state.
He said that the massive investment in the health card plan would assist build a strong healthcare infrastructure across the province, relieving the government of the burden of building new institutions. “Now, the private sector will step out and create hospitals around the province,” he said, adding that the private sector would be enticed to do so by low-cost land and the availability of duty-free imported medical equipment.
Through the health card, the private sector will be able to provide quality treatment to the public even in the province’s most remote locations.
“The government wishes to help all the impoverished people rise, as was the case in Madina’s welfare state,” Mr Khan added, regretting that such a state did not exist in Muslim countries but did in Europe.
The health cards will then be provided to people in Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan, where the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has a government, the prime minister added.
Meanwhile, Fawad Chaudhry, the federal information minister, has urged the Sindh chief minister to reconsider his decision and allow the people of his state to benefit from the Rs1 million health card. Mr Chaudhry expressed regret that the Sindh government was denying its people access to the facility, saying that the province’s PPP government constantly played the “Sindh card” but failed to play a “positive card.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan also spoke about the PTI government’s other measures, such as bank loans to the salaried classes for home construction. He said that out of the Rs260 billion in loan applications, Rs110 billion had been authorised and Rs34 billion had already been distributed. He noted that this will continue to grow over time. The importance of the Kamyab Pakistan and Ehsaas Ration programmes was also explained by the prime minister.
Earlier, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar announced that the Lahore division’s health card had been launched, and that no one would need to travel to London or the United States for treatment. He claimed that the universal healthcare programme had begun in the divisions of Sahiwal and DG Khan, and that the Punjab-wide coverage will allow 115 million people to receive free medical care.
Other health initiatives, including the construction of 23 hospitals around the province, would be completed soon, according to the chief minister. He said that the district development package had updated 158 hospitals and health centres, and that 91 health plans will be finished. In 2013-18, the health budget was Rs169 billion, but by 2018 it had risen to Rs389 billion. He claimed that more than Rs37 billion would be spent on providing free medicines across Punjab, and that 35,000 jobs in the health industry would be created. The CM asserted that the promise of 100,000 employment would be fulfilled as well.
PM Khan then held a series of meetings in the city to assess the state of development in Punjab, including one with the chief minister in which the chief secretary and the inspector general of police were also present. He also met with Ramiz Raja, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, and the province minister for sports.
Punjab Finance Minister Hashim Jawan Bakht briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on what he called the “biggest development budget in history,” totaling Rs740 billion for public welfare and municipal facilities projects.
Separately, PM Abdullah Khan Sumbal was updated by Planning and Development Chairman Abdullah Khan Sumbal on the budget allocation and status of its use for ongoing projects in the education, road, and health sectors.
Mr Khan urged that public welfare projects be completed on time while ensuring that the public receives high-quality services. He also requested that the administration conduct strong public awareness campaigns concerning the government’s development initiatives.
The prime minister also opened a Panahgah (shelter home) on Ferozepur Road, emphasising that the PTI government is committed to improving the lives of the poor. He requested that the civil administration ensure that the prisoners of the shelter house have a safe and comfortable stay.
The new Panahgah can hold up to 80 men and 20 women at any given time.