Healthcare Information and Options for Global Healthcare for Expats in Pakistan
When foreign expats shift base to or travel to Pakistan, their biggest concern is the country’s healthcare setup – but another, of course, is the safety issues with the country because of the high incidence of terrorism and civil strife, but we can discuss this in another article or blog post. Being an active UN member, Pakistan is committed to complying with both — the UN’s and its social service systems. Hence, Pakistan has elaborate healthcare services and the country has provisions for the highest quality medical treatment for expats in the region.
A blend of public and private medical facilities, Pakistan’s healthcare system offers a broad array of medical options. There are situations when the healthcare system is highly stressed, due to the country’s conflict with its neighbor and incidents of natural calamities, such as earthquakes.
Overview of Healthcare system in Pakistan
Healthcare in Pakistan differs throughout its geography. Big cities have sufficient healthcare that is easily available, whereas in rural areas the standards are very poor.
Efforts are on to improve the healthcare system in Pakistan, with an ongoing universal healthcare program. However, there is still a long way to go. In emergencies, hiring a taxi or driving to the hospital is advisable, in comparison to waiting for an ambulance.
Medical Facilities in Pakistan
- Health care systems vary greatly.
- Access to more modern medical equipment can be limited and equipment can be poorly maintained.
- The level of medical training is not very reliable with some roles performed by untrained personnel.
- Most expatriates can access basic medical care in major cities but the range of services and resources can vary greatly.
- You should expect that health care systems are very limited in rural areas.
- Blood transfusions in Pakistan are not overly reliable.
- Emergency services are limited and may not be staffed by medical personnel.
- Hygiene levels are in many hospitals in Pakistan are unreliable and can vary greatly.
How does the Pakistani Healthcare System Work for Expats?
Pakistan’s Ministry of Health stopped functioning in 2011, which resulted in 80% of all outpatient visits to public healthcare facilities going private, and this made wise expats opt for private healthcare insurance. Big cities do have sufficient healthcare facilities but medical care can be very irregular in rural areas.
Responses to emergencies are very poor, even in towns, since hospitals have a fixed number of ambulances. The sufficient availability of proper healthcare is highly critical. Malaria is widespread in villages and so are epidemics like polio and tuberculosis, even though many of these are at a safe distance from most of the cities that house expats.
Pharmacies and Emergency Services in Pakistan
Pakistan has around 45,000 to 50,000 retail and wholesale medicine outlets (serving 145 million residents). However, just around 800 people per year graduate as Bachelors of Pharmacy. This means that these outlets are understaffed, in terms of qualified personnel. Hence, most pharmacies have few or no professionals to run them.
But things seemed to have changed for the better in recent times. Today in Pakistan, if you need to purchase medicine, you do not have to visit a pharmacy to get it. You can place an online order for it. This is an advancement for the genuine patients and the ones with authentic prescriptions, although, it needs further regulation.
The top 5 pharmacies in Pakistan for online ordering of prescription medication are as follows:
- Sehat.com.pk: This is perhaps the top-of-the-line online pharmacy of Pakistan. It has a database that can be easily browsed through. They even have an option to base a search on generic names.
- Healthonline: The second choice for buyers is Health online, which is run by a reputed group. Their database does not have the option to search for remedies by their generic names, though work is still on to make this work.
- Dawaai.pk: They claim they are a licensed pharmacy in Pakistan with a national tax ID. They are based in Karachi. It is difficult to search their database by generic names of drugs.
- Medonline.pk: This portal has a toll-free helpline number which at times, fails to function. You can also avail services at other WhatsApp numbers to send prescriptions from your physicians.
- Medicalstore.com.pk: This website has no address or license number on it. The only phone number mentioned is that of a cellphone. Even their database is inconvenient to search for.
Necessary Insurance Paperwork for Expats
It has been reported that expats may have submit the following documents to register for emigrant’s protection:
- Valid Passport
- Visa (as per procedure in the host country)
- An authentic Computerized National Identity Card (a photocopy will also suffice)
- Online Request to Register for Direct Emigrants
- A work contract or agreement with the employer’s or an undertaking authority’s signatures on it, as approved by the Director-General, Bureau of Emigration, and Overseas Employment
- Welfare Fund Receipt
- Registration Fee Receipt
- Emigration Promotion Fee
- Insurance Certificate from the State Life Insurance Corporation (original and copy)
- Copy of NOC where the concerned is an ex-servicemen/government servant, nurse (from the respective federal/provincial medical authorities)
- Police Verification Certificate of the aspiring emigrant from the respective DPO Political Agent (only for certain nations)
- Health Fitness Report (from approved medical facilities of identified countries)
Best Private International Medical Insurance for Expats in Pakistan
Two of the best private insurance companies that can insure expatriates in Pakistan by offering international medical insurance are:
Cigna Global Health
Cigna Global Health offers you choices that help you build a global health insurance plan customized specifically for you and your family’s needs. The company provides assured complete core security along with the ease of adding innumerable further benefits that accompany a perfect plan and meet all your needs.
Allianz Worldwide Health Plan
Allianz stands apart as a health plan provider. It is more compact, easy-going, smart, and personal. Different from a few of the big companies, they provide personal service to all members with individually designed plans catering to the healthcare needs of expats.