Recently the Prime Minister has turned his attention towards the dying healthcare system of the country, and by the looks of it, PML-N’s usual affinity for grandeur is going to be part of the plan to give the healthcare system a facelift. Thirty-nine hospitals will be built on ‘war-footing’, with a deadline for completion of only eighteen months. The total cost will be of this mega project will be Rs 110 bn. Five of these will be built in the federal capital, with the rest scattered across the country.

These hospitals will literally be holding hundreds of lives in the balance, and compromising on quality can be catastrophic. Haste in search of votes will not get the government anywhere; any lasting improvements to the healthcare system will be remembered by the people and automatically grant PML-N electoral power in 2018. An eighteen-month deadline only to prove a point is really not necessary.

Out of the thirty-nine new hospitals, five will be in the federal capital, which still does not truly address the real problem of access to healthcare for people in rural areas. No one in this country, barring those that can afford treatment at private hospitals, has access to medical services, including many in the federal capital. But the situation in Islamabad is far better when compared to the rest of Pakistan. The doctor to patient ratio in rural areas is far worse. The government needs to build facilities where they are needed rather than where they are most visible.

The problem of healthcare is more complex than a simple dearth of hospitals. Doctors choosing to work in urban centres, an increasing number of hacks, the affordability of important life-saving medicines, unstable power supply to existing hospitals during surgeries and an overall funding problem for existing infrastructure are only some of the many aspects that the government needs to work on. Constructing hospitals is of no consequence if the doctors are still performing surgeries from the light of their cellphones in state-of-the-art operation theatres that are not operational. A serious look at the healthcare system is required, one that goes beyond just adding more concrete structures to an incompetent system.