Pakistan’s prime minister urges citizens to observe preventative measures to curb spread of COVID-19
The incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf will provide universal health coverage for residents of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces with its Sehat Insaf card initiative, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday.
Addressing the Insaf Doctors’ Forum at Lahore’s Aiwan-i-Iqbal, he said that the impoverished had to choose between substandard service at government-run hospitals and hefty costs at private facilities. By providing health insurance, which they could avail at any hospital, the state could ensure that the most vulnerable were treated with respect, he added.
The prime minister said that Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had already launched its universal health insurance scheme for all its residents and said now the government would do the same for Punjab. He joked that Punjab Health Minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid had been “concerned” about this due to the large population of Punjab, but said he had told her that they would start with the impoverished and then expand to the rest of the population.
“I have asked Dr. 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, adding that this would also encourage the establishment of more private hospitals. The government will facilitate this by providing land on concessional rates and duty-free import of medical equipment, he said.
Slamming the degradation of Pakistan’s public-sector healthcare facilities, Khan accused the political parties comprising the Pakistan Democratic Movement of “looting” the country’s resources and ignoring any development of public health. “All these corrupt former rulers will be held accountable and the incumbent prime minister won’t bow to their blackmailing tactics,” he claimed.
Claiming that Pakistan’s “defining moment” had now come, he said reforms would strengthen all state institutions and lead to the creation of a ‘Naya’ Pakistan. He stressed that this cannot be achieved with the flick of a switch. “This is a struggle,” he said.
Referring to corruption and problems in the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan, he lamented that the country’s pharmaceutical exports were negligible and vowed to incentivize the industry so its expansion could lead to lower prices of medicines in the country.
The prime minister also called for the implementation of the Medical Teaching Institutions reforms in letter and spirit to ensure that healthcare professionals with high delivery rates were awarded while the apathetic and incompetent were punished. He also stressed that the government’s plans did not call for privatizing public healthcare facilities; just greater autonomy to operate them on merit-based system.
Khan also condemned Islamophobia in France, saying this was making the lives of Muslims in Western countries difficult. “I have written letters to heads of all Muslim states urging them to make the Western world realize the Muslim community’s sentiments regarding respect for Islam’s Prophet,” he said.
The prime minister commenced his speech by reminding the forum that Pakistan’s battle with the COVID-19 pandemic was not yet over. Paying tribute to healthcare professionals for offering their services during the virus’ peak in June, he said they had faced “hard times” and “pressure” during the crisis.
Warning about a “second wave,” he said COVID-19 cases were surging once again and urged the public to strictly observe government-issued health guidelines, as the next two months were crucial.