Thursday, June 09, 2022
The announcement that the government will decrease the health budget by half has caused worry among both the general public and the health industry.
The cash-strapped federal government said on Thursday that the current financing for healthcare will be roughly halved in the 2022-23 fiscal year, while new projects will receive only scraps.
According to sources, the national health services ministry will receive only Rs14 billion in the next fiscal year beginning July 1, compared to Rs21.7 billion this year, according to documents from the 2022-23 Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP). This is because the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has imposed stringent conditions for the bailout revival desperately sought by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's administration to fill 'empty' public coffers.
In an exclusive interview with Geo.tv, ENT surgeon and Secretary General of the Pakistan Medical Association, Dr Qaiser Sajjad, stated that all prior governments also kept the health budget below one percent of the total budget. In contrast, the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that six percent of GDP should be allocated to health. "But if they choose to reduce this amount as well, I believe they have left the health sector with nothing," he remarked.
Regarding budget implementation, he stated that the budget is not allocated and handled effectively, and that it is not utilised with integrity. While the government is cutting down costs and attempting to lift the country out of its economic crisis, health and education should not be neglected, and the current budget should be maintained, if not enhanced, he asserted.
“If people are healthy, other conditions will also be met,” he added.
We have frequently argued that basic health units and primary health sectors should receive additional funding and be maintained appropriately, said Dr Sajjad.
He added that we "waste money" on the development of hospitals and the inauguration of new facilities, whereas we should be operating tiny neighbourhood hospitals.
Regarding post-COVID healthcare conditions, he said that COVID-19 laid bare numerous gaps in the health sector.
"There have been numerous improvements. We required beds, intensive care unit equipment, and ventilators and we have procured them. Additionally, a substantial amount of medical personnel has been trained, and human resources have been substantially increased," Dr Sajjad said.
If the budget is reduced, there will be a deterioration of all the improvements made, he said.