Misleading claim about Sehat Cards go viral

The Sehat Sahulat Programme has not been halted across Pakistan

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Claim: Hospitals across the country have stopped treating patients on Sehat Cards, following Imran Khan’s removal from office.

Fact: Media reports suggest that public and private sector hospitals in the Rawalpindi division have surreptitiously denied treatment to patients under the Sehat Insaf Card. Soch Fact Check cannot confirm the veracity of these reports. However, the Ministry of National Health Services have confirmed that the Sehat Sahulat Programme will continue to function.

Fact or Fiction?

On 10 April 2022, Facebook page BleedGreen.pk shared a claim that hospitals across Pakistan have stopped treating patients on Sehat cards following the success of a no-confidence vote to oust Imran Khan from power.

Sehat Card provides universal health coverage enabling families to avail free medical treatment worth up to Rs1 million per year from empanelled public and private hospitals across the country. It is currently available for the citizens of Islamabad, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.

The claim about the halt of services under the Sehat Card Programme was picked up by various profiles and pages including, here, here, here, here, here, here and here, among others.

Soch Fact Check traced the original source of the claim to the Express Tribune after coming across its Facebook post published 9 April 2022 about the Sehat Card programme. The media outlet carried the story with the headline, “Hospitals stop treating patients on Sehat cards.”

Many of the aforementioned pages on Facebook have quoted the Express Tribune in their posts that imply that hospitals across Pakistan have stopped providing treatment to patients on Sehat cards. In fact, this is not the case because Express Tribune’s story clearly states that the abrupt halt of the free treatment programme was reported in public and private sector hospitals in the Rawalpindi division only. Hence, the viral posts are missing context and are misleading. 

On 10 April 2022, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) put speculations to rest by issuing a statement that around 17,000 patients were admitted to hospitals across the country to avail free of cost treatment between 8 and 9 April. 

“All hospitals empanelled with Sehat Sahulat Programme continue to provide free of cost hospitalisation services to all citizens as per an agreement. There were around 9,000 hospital admissions on Friday and 8,000 on Saturday (April 9) across Pakistan under the programme,” the ministry stated.

“Any social media messages to the contrary are patently false, malicious and baseless. In case of any problem, please call toll free helpline 080009009 or approach the relevant hospital’s Sehat card counter for prompt assistance,” it stated.

Soch Fact Check called the helpline to inquire about the current status of the scheme. According to them, treatment under the Sehat Card programme continues across the country as of 20 April 2022. As for complaints being registered by citizens against hospitals refusing treatment, Soch Fact Check was told these incidents are being thoroughly investigated and action may be taken against the hospital. So far, most complaints have been received from Punjab, according to the helpline. 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Health Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagda also addressed rumours about the Sehat Card programme being discontinued.

“There is absolutely no truth in any rumours that the Sehat Card programme is being discontinued. In Pakhtunkhwa, the programme is independent of the federal govt. In the next cabinet we will approve legislation to ensure that universal health coverage is mandated by law in KP,” he tweeted on 19 April 2022.

Jhagra shared that close to 1.1 million individuals have benefited from the Sehat Card in KP so far, with 80,000 benefiting from the program in March alone. 

The State Life Insurance the guarantor of the health programme issued a letter on 10 April to more than 1,000 hospitals on the panel instructing them to continue treating patients across the country under the Sehat Insaf Card and reimburse expenses. The development comes after media outlets and individuals reported that hospitals in the Rawalpindi division and some private hospitals in different parts of the country were not facilitating patients under the Sehat Sahulat Programme. 

The proliferation of the claim could be linked to political uncertainty as the fate of the then ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which initiated the health programme was hanging in the balance on the day the claim started doing the rounds on social media. Moreover, the change in government likely made people question whether the medical services being provided under the scheme would be affected.

Virality

According to a CrowdTangle analysis conducted by Soch Fact Check, the search term “Hospitals stop treating patients on Sehat cards” turned up 46 posts on Facebook which received a total of 21,151 interactions over the 30-day period leading up to 19 April 2022.

Salman Malik’s post published 10 April 2022 is performing 2.55x times better than other similar posts on Facebook with 1,200 likes and 426 shares. Ali Khan AK’s post received 92 likes and 88 shares meanwhile sofisticated chawals’s post received 252 likes and 158 shares.

The oldest post dates back to 9 April 2022.

Conclusion: Apart from reports suggesting that hospitals in the Rawalpindi division and some private hospitals in other parts of the country were denying service under the Sehat Card, there is no evidence to suggest hospitals across Pakistan have halted the provision of free of cost medical services/treatments across Pakistan. To the contrary, the Ministry of National Health Services has confirmed that the provision of these services is continuing.

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