Sir: For thousands of patients, it is estimated that Pakistan has one doctor. This figure has been thrown up on almost all the surveys, reports and analyses focusing on the loopholes in the country’s healthcare system. Yet no report says that Pakistan has low institutional capacity to put enough medical degree holders in the market.
The increasing volume of the population is not only putting increasing pressure on the available health resources but is also causing a deterioration of socio-environmental factors, drawing, as a result, more ailing people to out-patient departments. This burden is reducing the quality of health services. It also forces hundreds and thousands of patients to return without having been examined by a doctor, because of long queues. Such patients keep suffering because inflation does not allow them private medical treatment.
A solution-oriented analysis leads to two root causes. First, a considerable number of women doctors do not continue medical practice after getting married. Concerned voices have long been suggesting that the government limit this trend by allocating a quota for women in medical colleges and universities. This would let thousands of male doctors fill the gap.
Second, the emphasis in Pakistan has always been on curative therapy, missing other components of a complete healthcare package such as palliative and preventive therapy. If diseases were prevented, this would reduce the burden and the spending on healthcare institutions. People need to be made aware of how to prevent diseases and infections, and how to improve heath quality. This can be done without spending extra money.
Pharmacists are medical scientists. Their expertise can be made the most of by patients and the public by having free consultations in pharmacies and hospitals, drug information centres or even online. This is in line with the international healthcare culture, and ought to be promoted in Pakistan.
Dr Zaib Ali Shaheryar