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Controversy Erupts as Pakistan Considers Outsourcing Diagnostic Services Amid Health Card Denials and Inflation Surge

Amidst a backdrop of escalating inflation and concerns over denied medical services under the health card scheme, the Pakistani Ministry of Health has ignited controversy with plans to outsource diagnostic services across several key healthcare institutions. The move, aimed at purportedly enhancing efficiency and reducing costs through public-private partnerships, has drawn criticism from various quarters.

Controversy Erupts as Pakistan Considers Outsourcing Diagnostic Services Amid Health Card Denials and Inflation Surge

The initiative, spearheaded by the Ministry of Health, targets outsourcing diagnostic services at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), rural health centers (RHCs), and basic health units (BHUs). However, this decision has raised apprehensions about imposing additional financial burdens on patients who currently benefit from either free or nominally priced diagnostic services.

Opposition to the outsourcing plan has been vocal, particularly among hospital employees who view it as a potential precursor to privatization. Secretary of Health Iftikhar Ali Shallawani has defended the move, asserting that it aligns with the government’s broader vision of healthcare reform.

The directives for outsourcing diagnostics came following a visit by Dr. Malik Mukhtar Ahmad Bharath, the prime minister’s coordinator, to PIMS. Subsequently, PIMS Executive Director Prof Dr. Rana Imran Sikander issued instructions to formulate a comprehensive plan for the outsourcing process.

In response to the mounting opposition, the Federal Health Alliance (FHA), representing hospital employees, has vowed to resist the decision and intends to convene a meeting post-Eid to strategize further actions. The FHA perceives the move as a step toward the privatization of healthcare institutions, raising concerns about the potential impact on the accessibility and affordability of healthcare services.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has taken steps to address broader healthcare needs by forming a committee tasked with proposing a 24/7 health emergency management system in Islamabad. This system aims to utilize existing RHCs under a public-private model, signaling the government’s commitment to collaborative efforts in tackling healthcare challenges.

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As stakeholders continue to voice their concerns and advocate for their respective positions, the fate of the outsourcing plan remains uncertain. Amidst the ongoing debate, the Ministry of Health faces the delicate task of balancing efficiency, affordability, and accessibility in the country’s healthcare landscape.

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