HEALTHCARE | Staff Reporter, Singapore

COVID-19 pushes healthcare sector reform in Pakistan

Poor track record may delay the process despite the government's political will.

A Fitch Solutions report has found that Pakistan is making attempts to achieve universal healthcare with a focus on vulnerable groups. Both Pakistan Vision 2025 and National Health Vision (NHV) 2025 provide a shared vision for universal healthcare, especially for women and children. One of the key actions under the NHV is the formulation of the Pakistan Human Resources for Health Vision 2018-2030 to address the country’s health workforce challenges.

Healthcare standards in Pakistan remain poor by global standards, with 78% of the population paying for healthcare expenditure out-of-pocket. According to a Lancet study, Pakistan ranked 154th amongst 195 countries in terms of quality and accessibility of healthcare, behind its South Asian counterparts Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.

Additionally, Pakistan has one of the lowest densities of health workers in the region and globally, with a doctor to patient ratio of 1:1,300 and a doctor to nurse ratio of 1:2.7. With such low levels of staffing, Pakistan is listed as one of 57 countries with a critical health workforce deficiency. The impact of these weaknesses has been perpetuated by the COVID-19 crisis, which reinforces the need to ensure effective crisis management and fast-track progress toward universal healthcare.

But these numbers also show that this created a room for the private sector to grow. Private expenditure on healthcare accounted for 70.2% of total health spending in 2019, having risen in relation to the previous year, the report added.

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