Having to choose between enrolling one’s child in school or paying for the successive chemotherapy sessions of an ailing parent is an undeniably poignant situation for any household however, the nightmarish imagining might soon become a familiar reality for many destitute families across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) in the coming year, who in the absence of the Sehat Card Plus’ (SCP) facilities will have to forego either their wealth or their loved ones.
The Sehat Card Plus, a micro-health insurance program was one of the flagship initiatives of the Government of K-P, offering free of cost treatment to all citizens through an insurance company selected via national competitive bidding. Under the program, more than 7.2 million families in the province were receiving free in-patient healthcare services worth Rs1 million per year, for a variety of conditions including life-limiting diseases like cancer.
In 2023 however, following the dissolution of the 11th K-P Assembly and the formation of the interim government, the Sehat Card Plus program was unceremoniously halted, leaving many unfortunate patients and their families in an unanticipated quandary.
For instance, Khalid Khan, a local from Peshawar, was regularly receiving free of cost chemotherapy medications worth Rs50,000 for his mother under the coverage of the Sehat Card Plus program. “This program was nothing short of a miracle for low-income patients. Recently, however, the interim government stopped the welfare program and most hospitals are no longer accepting patients,” revealed Khan, who felt that the shortage of funds was used as an excuse by the interim government to abdicate from its duties towards the common people.
Khan’s discord was confirmed by Dawood Khan, a social worker, who opined that 2023 was not a good year for the people of K-P in terms of the health sector since the interim government took several steps, including the suspension of the Sehat Card Plus, which might intensify the dissent among the populace.
“Apart from discontinuing free treatment in hospitals, the interim government has also stopped many other projects including the Insulin for Life Program, Free Cancer Program, and HIV Control Program, as a result of which the supply of medications and availability of treatments for patients will be seriously affected. Moreover, the government has also come under scrutiny for its improper supervision of candidates appearing for the National Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT), who were caught using Bluetooth devices during the exams,” claimed Dawood, who also revealed that the provincial government removed the Board of Governors of Medical Teaching Institutions (MTI) across the province and replaced them with people of their own choice.
Speaking to The Express Tribune on the matter, the Secretary of Health K-P, Mehmood Aslam said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2024.