KARACHI, Nov 23: The private hospitals in the city are up in arms in the wake of the demand by Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (Sessi) officials for payment of their contribution.
Owners of various hospitals maintain that the officials in recent months had started exerting pressure unnecessarily using the pretext of contribution and sometimes they caused hindrance in the working of the healthcare centres.
Office-bearers of the Private Hospitals and Clinics Association told Dawn that Sessi field officers were harassing staff at healthcare centres to seek payment of social security fund, largely known as Sessi contribution.
They said that Sessi had started collecting the contribution from some hospitals about two years which, according to them, was illegal.
Dr Munawar Ali Anjum and Sami Ahmed, Vice-President and Treasurer of the association, said that during the last two months, the field officers had been frequenting the hospitals in Federal Area and North Karachi, and at times, they would adopt harsh behaviour threatening the smooth working and peaceful environment at the facilities.
If they continued with this practice, it will be difficult for the hospitals to provide essential services at community level, said Dr Sami Ahmed, adding that authorities concerned should intervene to restrain the Sessi officers from indulging in such illegal activities.
They argued that hospitals and other healthcare centres were not included in the list of the industrial or commercial establishments in the West Pakistan Industrial and Commercial Employees (Standing Order) Ordinance, 1968 and, as such, they were not liable to pay the Sessi contribution, particularly because their employees had already been provided medical facilities.
When contacted, Sessi’s Director Contribution and Benefits Muhammad Hussain said that hospitals and clinics did fall within the ambit of ‘establishments’ defined in the said ordinance. Therefore, Sessi had started seeking contribution from such establishments.
In reply to a question, he said that the ordinance was applicable only to such areas, classes of persons, industries or establishments which, after prescribed exercise, are notified by name by the Sindh government for payment of contribution to Sessi.
By virtue of the notification, the liability to pay the contribution did not depended upon issuance of notice, rather it became an automatic affair. “In case of default, the amount of contribution, together with some surcharges, may be recovered as arrears of land revenue,” he added.
The Sessi director covering the areas that house the aggrieved hospitals told Dawn that social security officers had earlier surveyed the areas and identified the health facilities’ for the purpose of contribution collection. Their report had eventually been submitted to the Sessi’s governing body for consideration and then to the Sindh Labour Department for approval. He said that the department would notify from time to time names of the establishments to be covered.
“As soon as the names are notified, we properly inform the new establishment that they are now liable to contribute to the social security fund and, as such, there leaves no room for any highhandedness on the part of Sessi staff.”
In reply to a question, he revealed that in its efforts to recover dues, Sessi had recently gone to the extent of attaching properties, including ambulances, of the defaulters.
Regarding the grievances of the Hospitals and Clinics Association, the director offered all assistance saying, that he was open for suggestions and rectification of problems if the association came forward and identified those who might have misbehaved with staff and caused nuisance at any hospital.