Lack of facilities and absence of doctors in dispensaries warrant government attention

ISLAMABAD, September 3, 2010: A dispensary is the basic unit in state-run primary healthcare service delivery system. However, this building block of primary healthcare is tainted by poor infrastructure, lack of basic facilities, unavailability of medicines, absence of doctors and female staff and weak oversight, warranting immediate governmental attention, reports FAFEN’s Health Institution Monitor for the month of August 2010, released here Friday.

During July 2010, FAFEN’s Governance Monitors visited 109 dispensaries in 77 districts of the four provinces, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The monitored facilities included 52 dispensaries in 32 districts of Punjab, 15 dispensaries in 12 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), nine dispensaries in a similar number of districts of Balochistan, 31 dispensaries in 22 districts of Sindh and one dispensary each in FATA Agency and ICT.

More than one fourth of dispensaries monitored nationwide lack proper infrastructure. A majority of them do not have basic facilities like latrines and clean drinking water supply.

Almost 22% of the dispensaries monitored across the country are not housed in proper buildings. The number of dispensaries functional under makeshift arrangements is highest in Balochistan at 33%, followed by 23% in Punjab, 20% in KP and 19% in Sindh.

Many dispensaries visited by FAFEN’s Governance Monitors during July 2010 lacked essential equipment and services to cater to the primary healthcare needs of the patients. Around 76% of the visited dispensaries across the country do not have a ward and staff to deal with emergency patients. Almost 16% of the dispensaries visited nationwide do not offer free-of-cost medicines to the visiting patients.

Many dispensaries monitored by FAFEN’s Governance Monitors were inadequately equipped to cater to the needs of women patients. Around 47% of dispensaries do not have female staff to attend to women patients.

More than one-fourth of the patients (29%) interviewed by FAFEN Monitors said that they were not happy with the amount of time doctors give to each patient. A majority of patients (91%) interviewed were satisfied with the support provided by dispensary staff.

Around one fourth (26%) of patients interviewed complained that the dispensary was not providing them the prescribed medicines free of cost. The percentage of such patients was highest in Balochistan at 56%, followed by 47% in KP, 21% in Punjab and 19% in Sindh.

About FAFEN: FAFEN is a network of 35 civil society organizations working to foster democratic accountabilities in Pakistan. It is governed by Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability. For more information please visit