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PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Department is heavily relying on the expertise of professionals from abroad to implement the Health Reforms Act 2015 that seeks a paradigm shift in the existing system to make the health delivery system truly effective.

Relevant officials say that the newly-appointed board of directors (BoD) shows the government’s reliance on experts of international repute being tasked to bring changes in the existing system. There is no bar on BoD members belonging to any other province.

Prof Nausherwan Burki, a US-based Pakistani pulmonologist who spearheads the initiative along with other foreign-based BoD Pakistani members, has volunteered to help the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in reforming the system. For this purpose, he would stay for a longer period in Peshawar as required. As a rule, the board will hold quarterly meetings, but like Dr Burki, another BoD member Dr Khalid Khan, a Swabi-born foreign-based plastic surgeon, has also communicated to the government about his availability on voluntary basis.

The BoD’s formation signals to the way the government intends to bring about drastic changes for improvement in the health delivery network. Dr Burki, also a former chief executive of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital (SKMCH), is a member of Lady Reading Hospital’s BoD where he will be calling the shots.

While Dr Faisal Sultan, SKMCH chief executive officer, is one of the members of the Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) BoD and will be at the driving seat.

Dr Mohammad Asim Yousaf is one of the five board members announced for the Ayub Medical Complex (AMC), Abbottabad, and he will play a lead role there, sources said. They said that Dr Asim was also behind the construction of the SKMCH in Peshawar.

The sources said that all these health system specialists had remained members of the federal health committees, but now they would have to somehow adjust to the local circumstances. They said that the government would soon complete the process of hiring seven private members of BoD for each of the four teaching hospitals. Five each members for the KTH and AMC have been notified.

Each of the 10-member BoDs will have three ex-officio members, including three administrative secretaries, without vote power with regard to decisions. The sources said that the specialist doctors had also been in contact with the provincial health department and knew about the local situation.

The health department has already been working with them, but fears that these professionals, who have a rich international experience, lack local knowledge about how the employees work. The sources say that the prevailing culture of strikes and protests by doctors and paramedics, which shut the public sector hospitals for thousands of patients, would be a big challenge for them to tackle.

They said that the SKMCH didn’t allow protests, etc due to which it had gained a global recognition. The KP employees are in the habit of leaving their place of duty and resorting to strikes which won’t be that simple to be handled by the new setup.

The sources said that BoDs were trying to recruit highly professional people as medical directors, who would actually be running the hospitals.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2015

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