Designing a health policy

Rabia Zia

For a truly rising nation what can be the aims for designing a health policy. Discussions surrounding the roles of the government had been and continues to be a favourite Pakistanis pastime. But despite many health reform bills and amendments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa people still wish that a government should be developed to take actions  to reduce medical errors and  to enhance patient safety with improved health care quality in KP.

All the governments need a framework to implement the following principles  to ensure improvement in quality and safety in health care. 1. To purchase health care. 2. And to provide health care. 3. To  ensure access to quality care for vulnerable populations 4. To regulate health care markets 5.  To support acquisition of new knowledge 6. To develop and evaluate health technologies and practices 7.  To monitor health care quality 8.To inform health care decision makers 9.  To develop the health care workforce 10. And to convene stakeholders from across the health care system.

Now keeping in mind the above mentioned principles where do we as a nation stand. No doubt all the governments do their level best in excelling from each other in making tall claims but anyone can judge the ground realities by only having a mere glimpse at the present government’s role in the Dengue outbreak in KP.

Dengue is a social problem and can be overcome only by including all the segments of the society in the anti dengue drive. Service to ailing humanity is no less than worship. An effective strategy needs to be adopted. All government departments need to be fully active for copying with the situation and aggressive awareness campaigns needs to be initiated.

Despite the tall claims made by the KP government in health sector the concerned authorities  failed to overcome the outbreak of dengue. So far the fatal fever has consumed 48 lives. In a survey it was confirmed that about 1500 to 1600 patients are daily taken to the hospitals around the province among which at least 360 are confirmed positive. Out of them around 110 are admitted to the hospitals. Presently 324 patients are receiving treatment in different hospitals at Peshawar.

Worse than the outbreak of the dengue was the initial response of the provincial government when it rejected the help of the Punjab government. The contempt shown to the experts of Punjab revealed how politics and rhetoric still outweigh effective health policies.

The situation in KP is dire. A lot of agitation grew among the people of Peshawar. They became frustrated with the poor performance of health department in controlling the dengue fever. The people of areas worst hit by the fever had threatened the government to take concrete measures. The government also faced protests when it failed to address the issue at hand. Many jirgas were held and the members lambasted the government’s poor performance in eradicating the fatal fever. Members belonging to different political parties including PTI’s own members being part of the Jirga reflected people’s discontent over how the government dealt with the issue.

In a statement issued here, Qwami Watan Party provincial chairman Sikandar Hayat Khan Sherpao said that the uncontrolled virus had exposed the health reforms the government was claiming to have enforced in the province. The health department did not take preemptive measures for protection of the people from deadly virus, saying it was duty of the government to carry out spray to eliminate the breeding places of the mosquito carrying dengue virus.

In my opinion taking a step ahead, comprehensive Standard Operating Procedure (SOPS) for government infrastructure to fight the virus on regular basis needs to be developed.

Furthermore we need to assess the true burden of Dengue in KP. We also need to reduce its incidences. The government must focus on strategies to reduce mortality rate due to dengue and other complications due to the deadly disease. We also need to develop a sustainable setup to prevent and control it. Above all to ensure community mobilization and participation of all sectors for prevention must be ensured. Operational and implementation research centers need to be established. To develop inter sector and inter provincial co ordination and also to develop global partnership to prevent and control dengue.

It is the responsibility of the government to protect and advance the interests of society including the delivery of high quality health care.

As the market alone cannot ensure all the citizens to access quality health care, the government must preserve the interests of its citizens by supplementing the health department where there are gaps and regulating the department along with the market where there is inefficiency or unfairness.

The ultimate goal of achieving high quality care will require strong partnership among federal, local governments and the private sector. Translating the above mentioned principles regarding the appropriate role of the government into specific actions within a rapidly changing, decentralized delivery system will require the combined efforts of the public and private sectors.