Islamabad – No new medical dispensaries were set up in district Peshawar in 2017-18 despite a claim that over 20 union councils in the district do not have a dispensary.
The District Health Office Peshawar allocated a budget of nearly Rs. 237 million for the 36 dispensaries in the district in 2017-18, according to a response to an information request.
The information request was submitted by a Media Matters for Democracy employee under the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013. The request asked for details about the total number of dispensaries, new dispensaries established, the number of functional and non-functional dispensaries, and the budget allocated and released for these dispensaries in Peshawar.
The District Health Officer responded by stating that all 36 dispensaries were functional but no dispensaries were set up in 2017-18.
Zahid Mirokhel, a journalist who reports on health services in Peshawar, said he believes dispensaries should be set up in areas farther away from the hospitals so that the health care system is relieved of its burden.
“In about 22 union councils, there are no dispensaries or any other medical facilities for patients,” Mr. Mirokhel said. “We need to divide the health care system, improve the primary health care and adopt preventive measures rather than cures.”
He said all the five hospitals in Peshawar are in close proximity to each other and the people in the city do not visit the dispensaries.
As dispensaries only provide very limited services, patients prefer visiting the hospitals directly, said Hamid Bangash, a data analyst at District Health Information System, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
“In some dispensaries, we have a doctor because they have CT scan machines but usually there are (only) medical technicians in (dispensaries in) surrounding districts and within Peshawar,” says Mr Bangash.
Even though most Peshawar dispensaries may not have doctors, the majority of the budget released for the 36 Peshawar dispensaries was to pay staff salaries.
The district health officer’s response shows that nearly Rs. 215.8 million — around 90% of the total budget released — were spent on salaries.
According to the KP Health Department’s website, Peshawar has a total of 37 dispensaries at latest count, one of which was established after the time period specified in the information request.
“Some private dispensaries do not report to us; all of the others do,” Mr. Bangash said. “One was added in 2018 and the rest are old.”