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LAHORE, Oct 30: The Punjab Institute of Neurosciences (PINS), a 500-bed mega project launched at Lahore General Hospital, has been awaiting funds for completion, while the government seems to have shifted focus from health facilities to roads and transport.

It is said to be a unique project having a massive facility dedicated to one specialty – neurosurgery – in an already functioning teaching institute.

The ‘seriousness’ of the government towards this long-awaited scheme can be gauged from the fact that out of the total Rs1.5 billion allocated to the project the government has so far released Rs375 million only, with Rs150 million in 2012, according to the documents available with Dawn.

Of the total, Rs1.307 billion was to be spent on building components and Rs266.7 million for the purchase of equipments. The work was to be completed in two phases. Construction of phase 1 started around six years ago and later the then chief justice of the Lahore High Court, Khawaja Sharif, directed the Punjab government to convert the PGMI building into the neuro institute.

Out of the Rs1.307 billion for building components, the allocation made for the building structure, including external development, was Rs653 million, Rs184 million for doctors’ hostel, Rs8.2 million for 500KV generator, Rs408 million for air-conditioning and false ceiling and Rs52 million for lifts.

The idea of establishing the neuro institute had been tossed some 10 years back when some neurosurgeons had declared that fatality ratio at the LGH could be decreased only by expanding services. Later, two eminent neurosurgeons of the institute -- Prof Dr Nazir Ahmad and Prof Dr Tariq Salahuddin -- took up this ‘mission’ when they had been appointed principals of the Post-Graduate Medical Institute/LGH. But materialisation of the scheme came to a halt due to bureaucratic hurdles and it remained in the ‘storeroom’ of the health department.

Prof Nazir Ahmad retired. Prof Tariq was removed from the post.

Now, incumbent PGMI/LGH Principal Prof Dr Anjum Habib Vohra is perusing the case, but with little hope as some elements in the bureaucracy continue to create hurdles in its completion.

LGH is said to be one of the only teaching institutes in Pakistan known for handling a large volume of neurology cases and patients visiting from across the country.

The neurosciences facility is facing a shortage of funds amid rumours that the government’s priority is the transport sector, and that it has proposed more projects on the line of Metro Bus System.

According to the documents, in 2013 the government released Rs50 million only for PINS: Rs25 million for building components and Rs25 million for equipments.

“Now nobody knows how and when the rest of the Rs1.1 billion will be released,” an official privy to this matter told Dawn requesting anonymity. He said the release of “tiny amounts” with large gaps would not only adversely affect the construction work but could also double the cost of expenses due to delays.

“PINS needs Rs350 million immediately this year to complete the building’s structure only,” the official said. However, the authorities concerned have given no positive signals in this regard, he added.

The official regretted that funds had been released for construction of the main building only, while initiative on the remaining components was yet to be taken. About significance of this project, he said the 500-bed PINS was intended to be “a small hospital within the teaching hospital”.

Other salient features of the scheme include a parking facility for 100 cars in two basements, four neurosurgery units (50-bed each), three high dependency units (three-bed each), a state-of-the-art spinal unit (the only such facility proposed so far in any public sector hospital in Punjab), nine modern operation theatres, including two modular ones with sophisticated and costly equipments, auditorium with a capacity to house 500 guests.

When contacted, Health Secretary Hasan Iqbal refused to comment on the delay of releasing funds.