Dawn News

The Centre and Punjab wrangling has put the Rs2.5 billion mother and child hospital project in Rawalpindi on the back-burner.

The work on the hospital located at Asghar Mall Road near Eidgah was inaugurated in April 8, 2005 by then prime minister Shaukat Aziz after the project was approved by the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec).

But after the formation of new governments in centre and Punjab in March 2008 the tussle over the ownership of the project brought its construction to a grinding halt.

According to the project, the 400-bed hospital, equipped with state of the art facilities, was to be made functional in 2008. The federal government was to pay 50 per cent for its construction whereas the rest to be borne by the Punjab government.

The project also had in its layout plan a nursing school and chest diseases centre to deal with TB and breast cancer cases but its primary responsibility was to provide health facilities to women and children.

Anyway, the project is very important as only 200 beds in the gynaecology and obstetrics wards in the three government run hospitals are insufficient to meet the growing cases of mother and child health.

At gynae wards two or three female patients share one bed, making them vulnerable to contracting different diseases from each other.

The project was started on the recommendation of then Federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, but now neither the federal nor the Punjab government was ready to own it.

Even the decentralisation of health ministry under the 18th Amendment could not make any difference for the project as things are the same as they were a year back when it was used to fall in the jurisdiction of the centre.

In April, before allocation of the funds in the provincial budget 2012-13, Punjab Secretary Health Arif Nadeem visited the site of the hospital and collected details of the project to submit them to the Chief Minister Secretariat for allocation of funds.

However, the Punjab Chief Minister refused to allocate funds for the hospital as he wanted the project handed over in a proper manner.

A senior official in Punjab health department told Dawn that the provincial government was not interested in completing the project and wanted the federal government to allocate funds.

On the other hand, the federal government was of the view that after the 18th amendment, the health subject was the baby of the provincial governments and it was the duty of the Punjab government to complete the project.

Some officials of the Punjab government, however, believe that since the general elections are few months away the PML-N-led Punjab government has diverted major chunk of its development budget to the projects initiated by it, although during the last four years it moved in that direction at snail’s pace.

They say the provincial government wants to complete the Institute of Cardiology and Urology, bridges and roads to show the residents of the garrison city that the government is interested in the welfare of the people to make maximum gains in next elections.

But apart from Institute of Cardiology and Urology, major public interest projects like Institute of Urology and Kidney Transplantation, Mother and Child Hospital and various others are lying incomplete.

Former federal minister for information and Broadcasting Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told Dawn that the Mother and Child Hospital and Leh Nullah Expressway projects had fallen victim to political bickering between the federal and Punjab governments.

“The hospital is a necessary for the residents of the garrison city who face problems at three allied hospitals in the city due to shortage of beds and facilities,” he said and added that Punjab government was not taking the health subject seriously.

“Punjab government is spending money on unnecessary projects like flyovers and roads but least interested in completing the projects like Leh Nullah Expressway and Mother and Child Hospital,” he said.

On the other hand, MNA Malik Shakil Awan said that the provincial government had completed many projects of the pervious government including Girls College at Saddar, Slaughter House at Railway Road.

He said the hospital project was between federal and provincial governments and soon the federal government handed over the project to the Punjab, it would start work on it. He said work on Leh Nullah Expressway Project was likely to start soon.

When contacted, Health Director Dr. Zafar Iqbal Gondal said once the Mother and Child Hospital was handed over to Punjab, work on it would start as without taking over the project the provincial government could not initiate the construction.

“The federal government through a letter in April indicated to hand over the project to the province but later transferred it to Cabinet Division which takes care of such matters after the abolition of health ministry,” he said.

Cabinet Division Joint Secretary Umer Ahmed while talking to Dawn said the division had nothing to do with the Mother and Child Hospital in Rawalpindi.

He said that the federal government had handed over the list of the health institutes to the provincial government in October.

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