Prime Minister Imran Khan, on Wednesday, announced the plan to introduce universal healthcare in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) within a year. Speaking at the Insaf Doctors Forum meeting in Aiwan-i-Iqbal, Lahore, he said that the plan would roll out in phases and be carried out through the Sehat Insaf card. He also announced plans to incentivize the country’s pharmaceutical industry to lower prices of medicines.
The Prime Minister said the state of Pakistan wanted to offer universal health coverage to all segments of society within the country, and intended to expand the healthcare facilities in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said the KP government had agreed to distribute health cards to all citizens of the province, with priority to the vulnerable. However, he shared that the Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid had expressed reluctance to committing to a task of this scale, considering the population of the province.
“I have asked Dr Yasmin Rashid to implement the provision of health card to everyone in Punjab in phases to bring about a revolution in the healthcare system of the country,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the availability of the Sehat Insaf card to all would drive the private sector to set up more hospitals. The government would facilitate the entrepreneurs by offering them Evacuee Trust land on concessional rates and duty-free import of medical equipment, he added.
Health insurance worth Rs.100,000 through the Sehat Insaf card is to launch in Lower Dir, KP on 31st October.
He also talked about corruption and other problems in the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP), and expressed regret over Pakistan’s pharma exports being negligible compared to India’s $40 billion. The Prime Minister acknowledged the immense potential of Pakistan’s pharma industry, and promised to incentivise its expansion so that medicine prices can be lowered in the country.
Further, he called for the implementation of the Medical Teaching Institutions (MTI) reforms so that good performance was incentivised, and below par performance was punished. He also clarified that the reforms were not intended to privatise public healthcare facilities. Rather, they are were to ensure autonomy for existing hospitals in a merit-based system. He also said that the implementation of reforms in KP took a lot of time and effort due to “mafias” not allowing the authorities to carry out governmental policy.
While speaking, the Prime Minister also referred to the leaders of the opposition alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) as “pickpockets” who had looted the country’s valuable resources. “All these corrupt former rulers will be held accountable and the incumbent prime minister won’t bow to their blackmailing tactics,” he said.
The Prime Minister maintained that this was Pakistan defining moment, and reforms were a necessary step to strengthen all state institutions to lead the country to success. He explained that creating “Naya Pakistan” was an ongoing process that can be achieved through long-drawn reforms through the struggle of the government and people of Pakistan together.
Towards the end, Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke against the incidents of Islamophobia in France, claiming that the situation was difficult for Muslims living in Western countries. He assured that he had written to heads of all Muslim states urging them to join him in condemning such acts against Muslims in the Western world.