Comprehensive plan for Hepatitis control likely to collapse

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Owing to lack of preventive measures and treatment facilities, Pakistan is facing an epidemic of hepatitis B and C, as every ninth person is infected with hepatitis. Over 0.15 million hepatitis patients die annually due to hepatitis in the country, making it 400 deaths per day.

The Punjab government on directives of the Chief Minister had initiated intervention of hepatitis prevention and control programme through Annual Development Plan in 2005.

One year later, the federal government initiated the same programme with a cost of Rs 13,904 million, giving Punjab a share of Rs 7,241 million.

After 18th amendment in 2011, the programme was devolved to provinces. A PC-I of the programme was developed for the years (2009-12) with an estimated cost of Rs 2,286 million out of which only Rs 652 million were released and utilised.

The advisor to Punjab Chief Minister on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique on directions of the chief minister, a comprehensive programme for hepatitis control and provision of diagnostic and treatment facilities to the patients has been launched in the province.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahabaz Sharif constituted a Steering Committee for hepatitis control.

Primary and Secondary Health Secretary Ali Jan Khan said that the government had launched hepatitis control and infection control programmes in Punjab with a cost of Rs 4 billion.

The health department, however, only utilised Rs 930.892 million (39%) out of the total till June 2015.

Punjab is facing a grave threat of Hepatitis C due to mismanagement of funds, as Rs 1,476 million have still not been utilised for the treatment of needy patients, raising serious question marks on the provincial government’s health priority.

Another PC-1 for 2012-15 with an estimated cost of Rs 2,407.2 million was approved by the federal government out of which Rs 1,351.2 million were given ti the provincial government. Due to mismanagement of funds by the health department, out of the total, only Rs 930.892 (39%) million were utilised till June 2015.

Sources said that gravity of the situation could be gauged by the fact that Rs 319 million were allocated for Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and 419,000 patients were targeted for vaccination against the virus. However, only Rs 19.1 million were utlised while 370,010 persons were deprived from vaccine. As many as Rs 581.15 million were allocated for infection control, injection safety and hospital waste management, but only Rs 37.12 million were utilised.

It was planed to conduct training sessions for 1,427 hospital employees but not a single training workshop was conducted while 470 wastebaskets with bags were also not purchased. It was also planned to purchase 17 incinerators with a cost of Rs 414.8 million and 17 waste collection vehicles with Rs 51 million, but not a single rupee was used in this regard. It was also approved to repair 28 of hospital waste plants and vehicles with a cost of 16.8 million, but it was unachieved while 1,100 facemasks, long boots, gloves were also not purchased.

Documents further revealed that around 113,500 HCV patients were targeted for vaccination with a cost of Rs 653.76 million, nut only Rs 440 million were utilised for the treatment of 76,000 while 37,500 patients remained untreated between 2012-15. It was also decided to purchase pegylated interferon for 3,000 patients with an estimated cost of Rs 300 million, but these injections were purchased only for 1,420 patients with a cost of Rs 190.91 million while 1,580 patients were left to suffer.