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Matters have worsened for the health sector in 2019: PMA

KARACHI: An annual report was released recently by the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA). It was said that PMA had always earned a reputation for its efforts towards improving the healthcare system of Pakistan. Unfortunately, the current state of affairs revealed that the PMA’s efforts were in vain as nothing had been done to improve the health sector in 2019. Instead of improvement, matters had worsened.

It was said that polio remained an endemic despite over 100 rounds of vaccination being carried out in the past decade. The country’s polio program had deteriorated. Last year, the polio program was on the brink of eradicating wild poliovirus transmission.

The report stated that in 2019, however, year as many as 117 cases were reported across the country as compared to 12 cases in 2018. The International Monitoring Board (IMB) had declared the polio program and the importance of delivering the polio vaccine as “Political Football” in the country. It also observed that there was a lack of political unity behind polio resurgence in the country.

PMA stated that the outbreak of dengue across the country had been particularly vicious in 2019. More than 50,000 cases were reported across the country. This was almost double the number of people infected with the virus in the past decade. The report stated that it showed the negligence of our rulers as they had done nothing to combat such menacing illness.

The report by PMA notified that the number of HIV/AIDS patients in Pakistan currently stood at 165,000, as 9,565 new cases were detected this year. Ratodero, a small area in Larkana, Sindh, alone reported 895 cases of AIDS this past year. This constitutes of 754 children and 141 adults. There had been confirmed cases of Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) in Baluchistan, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Punjab. CCHF is widely spreading in Pakistan. The deadly Congo [Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic] virus ‘attacked’ Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan, killing at least 20 people this year.

The report further highlighted that fifteen million people were affected by hepatitis B and C in Pakistan. Thousands of new patients were added every year due to the lack of prevention, testing, and treatment resources as well as poorly screened blood transfusion, improperly sterilized invasive medical devices, and unsafe injections.

According to the WHO’s report, the main reason behind the rising number of hepatitis C cases in Pakistan, was the presence of a large number of quack doctors.

The report outlined that the outbreak of XDR-Typhoid cases in Karachi and interior Sindh reached thousands in 2019. XDR-Typhoid was a serious water-borne infection caused by the bacterium Salmonella Typhi that spread via contaminated food and water. This was because of the extensive use of antibiotics, causing resistance to typhoid disease.

The annual report of PMA said that the Sindh High Court ordered the concerned authorities to take measures to reduce pollution thrice, but no improvement had been made thus far. The laws in this regard were never implemented. The Prohibition of No Smoking Law 2002 still had not been implemented as yet.

The report also reminded a tragic incident that took place this year, as the Punjab Institute of Cardiology was attacked and destroyed by lawyers who led to the untimely deaths of four patients. Many others faced difficulties in getting treatment. The PMA believed that instead of destroying hospitals, several good quality hospitals should be established to provide relief to the sick.

The PMA had been advocating for investing more in the prevention of the disease rather than the curative side, but nothing had been done in this regard. As a result, the burden of diseases was increasing day by day. By just providing clean water to all the citizens of Pakistan, we could prevent 60% of the diseases in our society. If we eliminate mosquitoes, we could prevent all mosquito-borne diseases, which made up 40% of our total burden. We did not have enough virology labs in the country.

According to the WHO’s recommendations, the health budget of any country should at least be 6% of the national GDP. In our case, the health budget, despite the PMA’s repeated pleas and reminders to the government, had remained less than 1%, as per report.

The PMA believes that proper planning, political will, honesty, an increase of health budget, and its proper allocation, and above all, the consolidated preventive measure can improve the health delivery system in 2020, PMA notification highlighted.

January 2, 2020

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