The Sehat Sahulat Program was launched in 2015 by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government with an aim to provide health services to the underprivileged citizens of the province. (Zameen.com, 2021) This program can be divided into four major phases. The first phase was launched in 2015 which covered health expenses of almost three percent of the population living in four major districts of KP. In the second phase which was launched the very next year i.e. 2016, the program was extended to 51% of the population covering all districts of KP. In the third phase of this health program, the percentage rose to 64%. (Dawn, 2020) Finally, from January 2021, all the districts of the province are now covered and this facility can be availed by all the citizens of KP province.
“All KP citizens with a valid CNIC will be automatically registered in the Sehat Sahulat Program, free of any charges,” the ruling party officials said in a Tweet three days ahead of the launch. (Geo, 2020). In Pakistan, KP is the first province to provide this universal health coverage. (Dawn, 2021) This program can be seen as a great step towards a welfare state. The features and significance of this program are explained in detail in the following paragraphs.
The provincial government has signed an agreement with the State Life Insurance Corporation of Pakistan (SLICP), which borrows Rs 2,850 per person per year from it to provide this health service. The first feature of this extended health program is that each and every citizen carrying the CNIC of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will get access to free health services. This means that around 40 million residents (approximately 7 million families) of KP can avail the opportunity to be treated in almost 400 public and private sector hospitals of the province. The card covers hospitalized treatments 1 million rupees every year.
Another feature of this program is the provision of expensive health care services like liver and bone marrow transplant. The Chief Minister Mehmood Khan will soon sign a contract with one of the top notch hospitals of the country named Al-Shifa International Hospital. (The News, 2020) Previously, only those families who had the Sehat Insaf Card were eligible for free treatment but anyone having a KP CNIC can get access to health care just by showing their CNIC in hospital. (Samaa, 2020).
The hospitals which are selected for this program are on the basis of a thorough assessment of healthcare practitioners who visited hospitals around the province, assessed the conditions, the number of beds and rooms, and various other important aspects. (Samaa, 2020) As stated earlier, 400 hospitals have been included across all the districts in the province so far. In this program, a family means a husband, wife, and their children. The couple who are registered with NADRA will be provided with a separate insurance. Children and teenagers who are under the age of 18 and do not carry a CNIC can use either of their parent’s cards for treatment. However, after they get their own CNIC, they can amend the CNIC number registered in NADRA.
The aforementioned RS 1 million is divided into different categories based on the illness. Out of this 1 million, 0.2 million is particularly used for minor illnesses and minor surgeries where admission in hospital is necessary. Similarly, 0.4 million is used for major illnesses and injuries like cancer, burns, and cardiac arrests etc. The additional expenses are provided by NADRA to families who are extremely poor and needy. This additional amount is disbursed by the reserve fund. Another important feature of this program is that the transgender community is also a part of this program. The transgender people who are registered under the gender X in NADRA are considered as a family in this program. (Samaa, 2020).
Pakistan is the world’s 5th most populous country having a population of over 220 million. The rise in population at such an alarming rate has pressurized every sphere public sector specifically the health sector. There is a great pressure on public hospitals because of lack of resources and overcrowded patients. (The Nation, 2021) The initiative of Sehat Sahulat Program can be considered as a great step to become a welfare state. As most people living in the developing world live under the poverty line. Sadly, there are families who find it hard to make both ends meet possible.
In a patriarchal society like Pakistan, the women usually face a lot of difficulties in getting access to healthcare services. After getting access to free healthcare services, there might be a decrease in maternal death rates. (Dawn, 2021) Additionally, the global COVID-19 pandemic also had disastrous effects on the economies of countries around the globe. In these conditions, the initiation of this health program is undoubtedly a remarkable achievement by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government. This is a revolutionary step for a developing country to take, especially the one having serious long term problems in the health sector.
“Perhaps nobody can feel the pain which I had gone through when I was diagnosed with cancer. I had spent my entire hard-earned money on treatment of the deadly disease. It gave me a sigh of relief to know that now I am entitled for free treatment under the PTI government Health Card Plus programme,” said Khurshid Khan, a survivor of cancer, who lives in Nowshera. (The Nation, 2021).
However, despite all these expected positive outcomes, there are certain reservations. The healthcare practitioners working the public domain are enjoying perks of having a lifetime job with a fixed salary. This might lead to sluggish nature of the healthcare workers who neither would have incentive to work harder nor any fear of losing the job. This can lead to a possibility where only private sector hospitals would be the only competent stakeholders in the provision of this healthcare program.
The public healthcare infrastructure is very old and overcrowded which could ultimately lead to an even greater burden when people start availing free health services. There would be great efforts needed in order to sustain this program by embracing technological advancements in medicine.
There is also a chance of corruption where the private sector mafia can bribe the government officials to make them a part of the program for their own profit. This is where merit could be compromised and cancerous ailments like corruption could be catalysed. It should also be kept in mind that in a developing country like Pakistan, this program can create a huge burden on the national exchequer because the funds are being allocated despite having a possibility of being left unused by many citizens of the province.
If the government can find sustainable solutions to the problems stated above, then this program can benefit many people. It is probably too early to state this but if the KP government deals with all these shortcomings in an efficient way, the extension of this Sehat Sahulat Program can become a model for other provinces of the country to follow.
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By: Ahsan Syed Zada
The Author is a professional writer. He is a registered member of Writers Club Pakistan and his detailed profile is available in Writers Directory.
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