Citizens demand better healthcare in Pakistan — and get it

By Kashif Ali, Acting Director of Resources, Transparency International Pakistan

One of the problems Transparency International Pakistan hears about most often at its Advocacy and Legal Advice Center (ALAC) is that of the deplorable state of the health sector. Complaints usually fall under a wide spectrum of issues: absent doctors, lack of available beds, substandard facilities, poor rapport between doctors and patients and a lack of cleanliness.

Infrastructure is a major challenge in many government hospitals in Pakistan, but a more pressing problem is doctor absenteeism and inadequate levels of staff.

Doctors in public hospitals in Pakistan are not allowed to work in private clinics while they should be treating patients in a public hospital. But a lack of transparency and proper enforcement of the rules means that many doctors continue to see their private patients when they are supposed to be at the hospital.

Transparency International Pakistan came across one such case during a Mobile ALAC visit to Usta Muhammad, in Jaffarabad, Balochistan province in January 2017.

The citizens of Usta Muhammed told us that their hospital not only lacked even the most basic facilities but also that the doctors were running their own private clinics. The hospital didn’t even have a single ambulance available for the entire population of more than one hundred thousand people.

Transparency International Pakistan took up the matter with the authorities.

In response, they stepped into action and formed a committee to take prompt action to redress this issue. Four months later, the people of Usta Muhammad told us that conditions in the government hospital was were much better: doctors were no longer absent and were visiting patients regularly. There was also more medicine available to patients.

Furthermore, the provincial Health Ministry announced a ban on private practices by state hospital doctors during normal working hours, and has given instructions to the district administration for effectively implementing this policy.

The story highlights the importance of giving citizens a channel through which they can voice their concerns. Transparency International Pakistan’s Mobile ALAC can get to the front lines of corruption and take action so that essential public services are properly delivered.

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