Provinces refuse to spend on 10 health schemes

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ISLAMABAD – The provinces on Thursday refused to bear the expenses of national health programmes after the devolution of the Ministry of Health, endangering the programmes of lady health workers, polio, hepatitis control and seven others. The National Assembly Standing Committee on Health reviewed the state of affairs of the Ministry of Health after its devolution under the 18th Amendments in the presence of the secretaries for health of the four provinces, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The committee was informed that the provinces had refused to allocate funds for 10 special national health programmes and said if the federal government wanted to continue the programmes, it should keep on funding them for the next five years.
The provincial secretaries said that funding for all vertical programmes, currently implemented by the provinces, was routed through the federal government’s Health Ministry and after the devolution the funds would fall under the control of the provincial finance departments which would provide these funds to their departments according to their own priorities.
While briefing the committee, Punjab Health Secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad said, “Under the NFC Award, the federation did not provide any funding for the health sector.” The health secretaries also said the federal government after taking provincial governments into confidence could retain the matters of drug registration, pricing and quality control as federal subjects. They were of the opinion that the issues of drug registration, pricing and quality control could cause serious regulatory discrepancies after the devolution of the Ministry of Health to the provinces.
Hanif Abassi MNA said the issues of pricing, registration and quality control should remain federal subjects and the matter should be taken up with Mian Raza Rabbani who heads the implementation committee of the 18th Amendment. Dr Nadeem Ehsan, who presided over the meeting, agreed that there must be one uniform drug registration authority at federal level. Federal Secretary Health Nargis Sethi told the meeting, “We have prepared a comprehensive briefing regarding the pricing and registration of drugs to present to the implementation commission.”
The committee also criticized the non-payment of salaries to lady health workers. The health secretary said the Planning Commission had been asked to release funds for the programme and the issue would be resolved soon. The committee unanimously approved Pakistan Medical and Dental Ordinance 1962 Amendment Bill 2011 proposed by Dr Doniya Aziz, member, standing committee on health, and referred it to the Ministry of Health for comments.
Dr Nadeem said, “We are not against the provincial autonomy, but the provinces should use their resources for the health projects after the transfer of powers.”