Health sector mess

Published January 25, 2015

AS the process of decentralisation to the provinces began in the wake of the 18th Amendment health was one sensitive area where the transfer had to be swift and smooth so as to prevent distress to the general public. This sector has thrown up several challenges. For instance, there have been issues of jurisdiction in the purchase of vaccination drugs and there has been confusion as to whether the provincial or federal government was responsible for overseeing education at autonomous medical colleges. Not least, there has been a debate about the need for achieving some uniformity in the standards of treatment at public-sector hospitals all over the country and in the service structure of those employed in the sector in the provinces.

The latest controversy pertains to the reputable Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Lahore. More than 65 members on the faculty of the Postgraduate Medical Institute affiliated with it expressed their inability to carry on with their teaching assignments. They said they had no option but to discontinue after their teaching fees were stopped. The provincial health department has since responded by promising an early resolution to the problem, but this will need to go beyond the provision of ad hoc relief. There is no great mystery about where and how a permanent solution can be found. Sheikh Zayed is an autonomous facility, a midway option for those who cannot or do not want to go to either the overburdened, messy public-sector hospitals or the more costly private clinics. Its affiliate teaching institute enjoys respect, attracting students at various levels. The hospital and the teaching institute are required to be run by a board of governors previously approved by the federal government. After decentralisation, in 2012, the approving authority was passed on to the Punjab government, which has so far been unable to set up the board of governors. A board of trustees has already made its nominations. It seems to be a matter of attaching due priority to the case.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2015

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