Institutional Framework for Healthcare in Pakistan

Pakistan’s healthcare system comprises a diverse range of facilities, each designed to meet specific health needs of the population.

Primary Healthcare Facilities

Primary healthcare serves as the first point of contact between individuals and the healthcare system. These facilities are crucial for providing accessible, essential health services and play a pivotal role in preventing and managing common illnesses.

Basic Health Units (BHUs)

Basic Health Units (BHUs) are small, rural healthcare facilities that provide essential medical services to local communities. BHUs play a vital role in delivering primary healthcare to Pakistan’s rural population, contributing significantly to disease prevention and health promotion. They are typically staffed with a medical officer, a lady health visitor (LHV), and support staff. BHUs offer services such as immunization, maternal and child healthcare, treatment of minor ailments, and health education.

Rural Health Centers (RHCs)

Rural Health Centers (RHCs) are larger than BHUs and provide a broader range of services, including outpatient care, maternal and child health services, minor surgical procedures, and emergency care. RHCs are staffed with doctors, nurses, and paramedics and are designed to serve larger rural populations.

Secondary Healthcare Facilities

Secondary healthcare facilities provide specialized medical care, typically upon referral from primary healthcare providers. These facilities include district and tehsil hospitals.

Tehsil Headquarters Hospitals (THQs)

Tehsil Headquarters Hospitals (THQs) serve as the secondary level of healthcare within tehsils (sub-districts). They offer more specialized services than primary care facilities, including diagnostic services, inpatient care, surgery, and specialty consultations. THQs bridge the gap between primary and tertiary care, providing important medical services to larger populations at the sub-district level.

District Headquarters Hospitals (DHQs)

District Headquarters Hospitals (DHQs) operate at the district level, offering a wide range of specialized medical services, including advanced diagnostic facilities, inpatient care, surgical services, and specialty consultations in fields such as cardiology, gynecology, pediatrics, and orthopedics. DHQs provides advance medical care at the district level, reducing the burden on tertiary hospitals and improving health outcomes.

Tertiary Healthcare Facilities

Tertiary healthcare facilities are specialized institutions that offer advanced medical care and treatment for complex health issues. These facilities include teaching hospitals, specialized medical institutes, and tertiary care hospitals.

Teaching Hospitals

Teaching hospitals are pivotal in advancing medical education and research while delivering top-tier healthcare services. Teaching hospitals are affiliated with medical colleges and universities. They serve dual purposes: providing high-quality patient care and training future healthcare professionals. These hospitals offer advanced diagnostic and therapeutic services across various specialties.

Specialized Medical Institutes

Specialized medical institutes focus on particular areas of medicine, such as cardiology, oncology, neurology, and orthopedics. Examples include the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), and Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre (SKMCH&RC). These institutes provide cutting-edge medical care, contributing to significant advancements in their respective fields and improving patient outcomes.

Private Healthcare Facilities

Private healthcare facilities in Pakistan range from small clinics to large, multi-specialty hospitals. They offer an alternative to public healthcare services, often providing higher standards of care and shorter waiting times.

Private Clinics

Private clinics are often run by individual doctors or small groups of healthcare professionals. They provide outpatient services, including consultations, diagnostic tests, and minor procedures.

Private Hospitals

Private hospitals, such as Aga Khan University Hospital, Shifa International Hospital, and South City Hospital, offer a wide range of medical services, including inpatient care, surgery, and specialized treatments. They are known for high-quality care and advanced medical technology.

Percentage of Private Healthcare Institutions in major provinces of Pakistan
ProvincePrivate Hospital Percentage %
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa22.51
Source: Pakistan Bureau of Statistics

Specialized Healthcare Facilities

Specialized healthcare facilities cater to specific health needs and populations, offering targeted services for particular conditions or demographics.

Maternal and Child Health Centers

Maternal and Child Health Centers focus on providing comprehensive care to mothers and children. These centers play a pivotal role in ensuring healthy pregnancies and reducing maternal and infant mortality rates. Services offered include prenatal and postnatal care, immunizations, nutritional counseling, and pediatric services.

Rehabilitation Centers

Rehabilitation centers provide services for individuals recovering from illness, injury, or surgery. These centers offer physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and other rehabilitative services to help patients regain functionality and independence. They cater to patients with diverse needs, including those recovering from strokes, orthopedic surgeries, traumatic injuries, and neurological conditions.

Mental Health Facilities

Mental health facilities, including psychiatric hospitals, counseling centers, and community mental health services, provide care for individuals with mental health issues. These facilities offer diagnosis, treatment, therapy, and support for conditions such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and substance abuse disorders.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Charitable Hospitals

NGOs and charitable hospitals are vital components of Pakistan’s healthcare system, offering free or subsidized medical services to underserved populations. These organizations often fill gaps left by the public and private sectors, providing essential healthcare services to those who cannot afford them.

Mobile Health Units

Mobile health units are designed to bring healthcare services to remote and underserved areas. These units are equipped with medical supplies and staffed by healthcare professionals who travel to provide essential health services, including vaccinations, primary care, and health education.

Telemedicine Services

Telemedicine services have gained prominence in Pakistan, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These services utilize technology to provide remote consultations, diagnosis, and treatment, making healthcare more accessible to those who cannot visit healthcare facilities in person.


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