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ISLAMABAD: In the current fiscal year's Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2021-2022, a sum of Rs21.7 billion has been allocated to the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation, and Coordination for 40 new and ongoing schemes, which is a 50 percent increase from the budget allocated to the ministry last year.

In a high-level policy review meeting, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar made a detailed review of the new and ongoing health schemes that have received federal funding in the current and previous fiscal year, in Islamabad on Tuesday.

It was told the meeting that in the current year's PSDP 2021-2022, Rs21.7 billion has been allocated to the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation, and Coordination for 40 new and ongoing schemes, which is a 50 percent increase from the budget allocated to the ministry last year.

In addition, Rs2 billion has been allocated to health projects under the Finance Division, Rs4.4 billion to health projects under Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan, and Rs2.8 billion to health projects under the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), totalling to Rs30.9 billion committed for improved health services for the people of Pakistan.

It was informed that together these 60 health schemes would see through ground-breaking of 16 new health facilities and two up-gradation projects, completion and inauguration of three new health facilities and 10 upgraded facilities in the current year, and completion of 12 new and nine upgraded health facilities in 2023.

These include the establishment of a Centre of Excellence for Gynaecology and Obstetrics in Rawalpindi, a state-of-the-art Accident and Emergency Centre at PIMS Islamabad, Upgradation of Neurology and Nephrology Departments of PIMS, Establishment of Polyclinics, a 200-bedded hospital in Skardu, and a Medical and Nursing College and a Cardiac Hospital in Gilgit, ands Atomic Energy Commission hospitals' upgrading in the AJK, Karachi, Bahawalpur, and Lahore.

While continuing to face the Covid pandemic, the government has not only protected health in the budgetary allocations but committed to critical and strategic projects, including stronger health systems, pandemic preparedness, and universal health coverage through Sehat Sahulat health protection schemes. Overall Pakistan will be spending 410 percent higher in the current year than the previous years of the health budget.

This is also thrice the amount of total spend on health in the last three years. While presenting the PSDP portfolio for heath, Dr Shabnum Sarfraz, Member Social Sector highlighted that within these projects, Rs3.6 billion is earmarked for five provincial projects.

She gave a detailed overview of the additional allocations made in FY 2021-2022 of Rs37.96 billion to the provinces under the Covid-19 Responsive Umbrella PC1 of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives on a cost-sharing basis.

This is dedicated to strengthening the infectious disease management and critical care facilities in the tehsil and district headquarters hospitals in the four provinces and two regions of the country.

Funding was also provided for improving the public health surveillance system across the country. Under this umbrella scheme, Rs5.02 billion of federal funding has been allocated to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which will support the up-gradation of 19 DHQs in 19 districts.

An allocation of Rs10.41 billion will support 16 DHQs, 23 THQs, four teaching hospitals across 21 districts of Sindh. Punjab received Rs19.59 billion worth of federal funds, which will upgrade six DHQs and eight THQs across 11 districts.

A sum of Rs2.94 billion was allocated to Balochistan for strengthening 32 hospitals. A fund of Rs1.6 billion received by GB will support the up-gradation of 10 DHQs in 10 districts, and Rs1.1 billion to the AJK will support the up-gradation of 10 DHQs, 10 THQs, and four teaching hospitals in 10 districts.

Additional funding of Rs4.87 billion has been committed by the federal government exclusively for the less-developed districts of South Balochistan. Overall, a total of 152 health facilities will be upgraded across Pakistan to ensure last-mile quality health service delivery to the people with updated diagnostics, infectious and critical care management capabilities.

Under the Covid-19 responsive federal funding, provincial governments will also be strengthening their early warning, disease surveillance and response systems, establishing public health laboratory networks, bolstering the preparedness and capacities of the international points of entry.

To support this, the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination has been allocated Rs4.5 billion. While the Government of Pakistan is continuing its overhaul of the public sector health system, backing the structure and services with historically highest funding in the history of the country, the minister has also advised fast-track execution and timely completion of the committed projects, so that access and quality of care to people are ensured, and the commitments made are honoured.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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