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‘Doctors across the country should charge a uniform fee’

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on National Health Services (NHS) on Thursday called for doctors across the country charging a uniform fee.

Presenting the Medical Consultancy and Other Services (Rationalisation of Fees) Bill 2016 for consideration in the committee, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) MNA Nikhat Shakeel Khan said: “There are vast differences in the fee charged by different doctors who practice medicine privately. Why are some doctors charging Rs2,500 [for a consultation] and others Rs1,500?”

MNA Shakeel said that seeking medical consults from private medical practitioners and medical services were getting more and more unaffordable for the common man across the country and that the fee doctors charge should be rationalised.

Welcoming the proposal, NHS Minister Saira Afzal Tarar said an identical bill has been drafted by the ministry and was in the process of approval.

Parliamentary committee discusses bill calling for regularisation of private medical practice

“The proposals put forward my [Ms Shakeel] can, however, be incorporated in the bill prepared by the ministry,’ Ms Tarar said.

While most members agreed that private medical practice should be regulated and brought under a monitoring system, PML-N MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani argued against bringing private medical practices under a regulatory mechanism.

“Market forces should determine the costs of health services in the private sector,” Dr Vankwani argued.

And though MNA Syed Ghazi Gulab Jamal agreed with incorporating a regulatory mechanism to monitor doctors and hospitals, he was opposed to levying numerous taxes on medical practices in the country such as the professional tax and health regulatory tax, property, income and social welfare taxes that doctors had to pay.

NHS Minister Saira Afzal Tarar said though her office was working on bringing changes in the public health sector, her jurisdiction did not extend outside the federal capital.

“We have to beg provincial health departments to coordinate and cooperate with us, which they don’t. A visit to basic health units shows how Pakistan is not progressing at all. The Prime Minister’s National Health Programme is [good] but no provinces are willing to contribute to it,” she said.

The minister told the members that the proposed Federal Health Authority, which will have the mandate to keep a check on doctors, medical laboratories, hospitals and private practice, was the solution to numerous health related concerns.

She said the increase in population is putting a strain on health facilities and asked the members to raise the issue of the increasing population in parliament.

The committee also considered amendments to the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan Bill, 2016 which was proposed by MQM MNA Dr Fouzia Hameed, who has recommended an increase in jail term for and raising fines imposed on importers, exporters and manufacturers of spurious and counterfeit therapeutic drugs.

While the ministry agreed to the proposal for increasing jail time to not less than ten years against a minimum term of three years, MNA Jamal proposed a lifetime in jail to anyone exporting, importing and manufacturing spurious medicine.

Source: Dawn

Byline: Jamal Shahid

November 11, 2016

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