One doctor for 1,359 patients: survey
By Nasir Iqbal
ISLAMABAD, June 06, 2005: Public health sector in Pakistan suffers from considerable inadequacies with only one doctor available for 1,359 patients, one dentist for every 25,107 persons and one nurse for every 3,175 people, according to the Economic Survey 2004-05 released on June 4.
Still the statistics for the current year represent a slight population-to-health-ratio improvement as compared to 2003-04 when 1,404 patients had only one doctor, 27,414 persons one dentist and 3,296 persons one nurse.
There are 113,206 doctors, 6,127 dentists and 48,446 trained nurses in the public health sector, according to the economic survey.
However, their true numbers would be higher as many bona fide health professionals and paramedics are not registered with Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PM&DC) and yet practising in hospitals and clinics, the survey said.
Since the majority of doctors and hospitals are in cities and towns, rural population has much lower access to health facilities. They get care from private practitioners, hakims and homeopaths, while minor ailments are treated by self medication.
Three problems were identified in the survey as needing urgent attention, namely imbalance between rural and urban areas in term of facilities, low utilisation of medical facilities and big gaps in national health services.
In all the country’s public health sector consists of 916 hospitals, 552 rural health centres, 5,301 basic health units and 4,582 dispensaries.
Expenditure in health sector in Pakistan, 0.7 per cent of GNP, was low compared to other countries of the region, the survey said. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends $34 per capita as the required package for essential health services.
Pakistan is committed to increasing public expenditure on health to 0.8 per cent of GDP in medium term and one per cent of GDP in long run, the survey said.
During the year 2004-05, total expenditure on health is estimated at Rs38 billion of which Rs11 billion was utilized for development and Rs27 billion for current expenditure, which has increased by 16 per cent over last year. During the last three years, public sector expenditure on health has increased on average 14 per cent per annum as against 6.7 per cent per annum during previous five years.
In simple words, growth in public expenditure on health has been doubled in recent years.
During 2003, life expectancy in Pakistan remained at 64 year, while infant mortality rate per 1000 was 74, mortality rate under five per 1000 was 98 and population average annual growth was 1.9 per cent.
In India during the same year, the indicators showed 63, 63, 87 and 1.5 per cent respectively. Sri Lanka, 74, 13, 15 and 1.2 per cent respectively and Bangladesh 62, 46, 69 and 1.7 per cent respectively.
Pakistan is signatory to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and three out of eight MDGs are directly related to health sector.