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Unspent billions meant for health perturb CM

July 07, 2013

KARACHI, July 6: Rattled by the disclosure that billions of rupees allocated for the health sector in the last provincial budget were not released, Sindh chief minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah told the authorities on Saturday to ensure that last financial year’s targets were met and such a lapse did not occur this year.

The chief minister, who holds the health portfolio also, was presiding over what was called the first ‘landmark’ meeting, with the top authorities running the department with a renewed commitment that this fiscal year would see a ‘better treatment’ to the sector, which was gravely neglected last year.

The meeting, which reviewed the overall situation in the health department, continued for over two hours. Those who attended it included health secretary Inamullah Dharejo, director general of health Ashfaq Memon, secretary for blood transfusion authority Dr Zahid Ansari and directors of the TB, HIV/Aids, polio and neonatal programmes.

Though the participants did not discuss reasons for the non-release of the huge amount allocated for the health sector last fiscal, it was evident that the general elections and transfer of power to the caretaker government and then to the new incumbent were the main factors behind the lapse of funds.

Precisely, the money for the last two quarters of 2012-13 could not be released for the health sector, which hit the completion of many key schemes and running of most paramount programmes, including tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/Aids, immunisation etc, sources told Dawn.

“The chief minister was not happy with the fact. In fact, he was highly perturbed by it and asked the authorities that no such situation recurred this year,” said a source.

The chief minister said he was there to supervise and help the health department and all-out efforts would be made to complete and run the schemes which remained unfinished last year.

A government spokesman said the health secretary briefed the meeting on various programmes in the province, including the health department’s strategy vis-à-vis dengue fever, malaria, polio, measles, TB, Naegleria fowleri etc.

The CM said the health sector was among the ‘most preferred’ tasks of his government for which efforts were made and resources used.

He asked everyone to do their best and warned of ‘stern action’ against those who were not performing their duties well.

“Action will be taken against those who are not performing well as one who shows negligence in an area which deals with life and death of the people could not be pardoned,” he was quoted as saying in a press statement.

He ordered the relevant officials to complete hospitals in Shikarpur, Khairpur and Badin districts within the next six months and added that the rest of the schemes should also be completed on time.

The health secretary told the meeting in his briefing that so far 379 cases of dengue had been reported across the province, of which 368 were reported in Karachi alone.

He said a provincial committee or task force had been established to control dengue and Rs5 million had been spent to purchase ICT testing kits. Besides, dengue care units had been set up in various major hospitals across the province; directives issued for widespread fumigation campaigns and advertisements had been published in newspapers as part of a public awareness campaign.

He said two measles cases had been reported so far this month while in the last month 51 cases were reported, of which one patient had died. He claimed that because of ‘better measures’ taken by the health department, the number of measles cases had dropped significantly.

The secretary said a measles vaccination crash programme had been launched in eight affected districts of Sindh, which targeted a population of 2.9 million. He said from January to April, some 6,217,980 children were vaccinated for measles.

He said some Rs13.485 billion had been allocated for 103 running schemes while Rs3.5 billion had been allocated for 78 new schemes.