Healthcare in Pakistan varies considerably, depending on a number of factors. Those living in larger cities will find that the healthcare available is adequate, whereas in rural areas it can be of an extremely poor standard.
Efforts to upgrade the healthcare system in Pakistan have been put into place, with plans to establish a universal healthcare programme by 2025. This is yet to show significant progress though.
Emergency response is unreliable, with limited numbers of ambulances. In the event of an emergency, taking a taxi or driving to the hospital can often be a wiser option.
Public healthcare in Pakistan
While Pakistan offers both public and private options, most expats opt for the latter. In fact, most expats employed by international companies or diplomatic missions operating in Pakistan will have a comprehensive health insurance plan set up for them so they won't need to consider using public facilities while in the country.
There are government-run hospitals that are low-cost and offer basic medical treatment, but the standard is often quite low and not in line with what most expats, especially those from Western countries, would be accustomed too.
Private healthcare in Pakistan
Pakistan has a number of expensive private medical facilities, mostly located in the urban areas of Karachi and Lahore. It is highly recommended that expats take out comprehensive private health insurance if this isn't provided by their employer. Medical insurance should also include provision for the possibility of emergency medical evacuation to a nearby country with superior facilities.
Pharmacies in Pakistan
Pharmacies are readily available in urban centres but outlets are often understaffed when it comes to qualified personnel. Anyone travelling to outlying rural areas for extended periods should pack basic medications. Those living in rural areas may need to travel to larger towns to fill prescriptions.
There have been some improvements in recent years. Online services have reduced the need for people to physically visit a pharmacy and people can instead have their medication delivered to them, at least in urban areas.
It is important to note that some medications may be known by a different name in Pakistan, so it's best to bring ample supply when moving to the country and speak to a general practitioner about alternatives that may be available.
Health hazards in Pakistan
Malaria is a risk in rural areas, and polio and dengue fever are common too. Expats should take the necessary precautions, including being vaccinated before leaving for Pakistan, and should avoid drinking tap water.
Emergency services in Pakistan
While there are different numbers for different services and regions in Pakistan, Rescue 1122 is the most widespread and should be called in case of an emergency. There are both public and private ambulance services in Pakistan, but majority of the ambulance services in the country are run by NGO's. While this does assist with the high number of medical emergencies reported daily in the country, many of the staff are untrained and unable to provide advanced life support pre-hospital. For this reason, expats with an extensive private life insurance plan should opt for private ambulance services where possible.
►See Doing Business in Pakistan for information on workplace culture
Are you an expat living in Pakistan?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Pakistan. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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