RAWALPINDI, Dec 9: Unable to interest the federal government in its plan to add 200 more beds to the Cantonment General Hospital (CGH), the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board (RCB) has taken to the commercial road to improve its own poor financial health.

Dawn has learnt that the RCB dropped its plan to spend Rs100 million on providing facilities that the existing 300-bed CGH hospital had been missing for long, and instead spent the amount on converting its two wards into private paying wards.

Income from the 20 rooms in the paying wards is proposed to buy the medical equipment the CGH lacks as well as help the RCB better the civic facilities it is obliged to provide to the people living in the cantonment areas, according to sources in the cantonment board and the hospital.

They said that taking a lead from the Military Hospital, doctors of the CGH will also be allowed to see their private patients in the hospital, in the evenings, from December 15. But the doctors will have to share 60 per cent of their private income with the RCB.

Confirming the information, Cantonment Executive Officer Rana Manzoor Ahmed Khan said the private wards will open for business from next month.

But he claimed that the RCB had spent another Rs150 million on purchasing medical equipment for the refurbished CGH, including Rs105 million on the costly CT Scan and MRI machines.

Since it would have been difficult for the RCB to bear the entire annual cost of running the hospital, he said, it resorted to the privatization of its services.

Compared to the Rs16,000 to Rs20,000 per day that private hospitals charge from their patients, the CGH will charge Rs8,000 per day, the RCB executive said.

“The money earned from the private patients will be spent on improving the facilities for those who cannot afford private rooms,” he said, promising that hospital services would remain free for the poor.

A senior officer of the RCB, requesting anonymity, told Dawn that the federal government had announced increasing the number of beds in the CGH from 300 to 500 way back in 1985 but never realised it.

Indeed, the general conditions of the hospital went down all the time.

Built during the British Raj, much before the emergence of independent Pakistan in 1947, the military hospitals did not grow with the growth of population.

A new building was constructed for the CGH in 1985 but modern medical equipment was not provided. To this day it has no CT Scan or MRI machine.

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