PESHAWAR: The delay in handing over basic health units to district health officers by the Sarhad Rural Support Programme has triggered shortage of drugs in many districts, according to sources.

In mid-May, the government directed the district health officers (DHOs) to take charge of the basic health units (BHUs) from the SRSP by June 30. As the process had been stalled by an interim court order, granting status quo, there was acute shortage of drugs in BHUs, sources said.

They said that BHUs should have received the drugs in May and June but the SRSP returned the amounts to the government. “The DHOs have informed the health department about the shortage of medicines,” sources said.

The provincial government started contracting out BHUs to SRSP in 2007 in two districts but later the number of districts reached 17. Under the arrangement, the SRSP managed 572 BHUs through its managers, who took care of administrative and financial matters, sources said.

The SRSP has implemented its People Primary Healthcare Initiative (PPHI) programme aiming to ensure availability of basic health services to the patients in the neighbourhoods.

Mr Shakil, an official of PPHI, told Dawn that they had received funds for purchase of medicines very late owing to which the process was late. “However, we have been asked by the government to acquire drugs soon. We get Rs40, 000 for drugs for every BHU from the government,” he said.

He said that they were staying away from the process of handing over the facilities to DHOs on the court’s directives.

Sources said that DHOs started hiring paramedical staff after delegation of powers by the government and they were waiting to get the desired number of doctors. The government had started interviews to recruit 1,100 doctors and fill vacant positions all over the province, they said.

The DHOs had been criticising outsourcing BHUs, saying they were qualified health managers but the government’s rules were too hard to purchase medicines, repair equipment and carry out civil work owing to which patients’ care was affected. “In every district, vacant posts have been big problem,” they said.

The government’s rules don’t apply to SRSP in purchases, repair and it gets the whole budget from the government for the BHUs concerned and makes even appointments to ensure presence of doctors and other staff.

“At present there are 520 doctors, 212 administrative personnel, 200 lady health visitors and about 700 paramedics and Class-IV employees, directly hired by the SRSP on contractual basis,” sources said.

The DHOs had to follow lengthy procedure to be able to get the vacant post filled, they said. They added that government believed that the court would ultimately allow it to proceed with its plan of getting the BHUs from SRSP because the people, who had challenged the order, were not government’s employees. However, it would delay the process. The SRSP was responsible for the staff it had hired, they said.

Meanwhile, the committees formed under the deputy commissioners have continued to carry out assessment for taking charge without the participation of the SRSP. The DHOs are eager to get the BHUs, saying they have been empowered by the government and can take administrative and financial decisions which they couldn’t take before.

Recently, the health department appointed deputy district health officers to take care of all the BHUs in their respective districts, sources said. “The DHOs have been running about 1,300 rural health centres, civil dispensaries and tehsil headquarters hospitals so managing the BHUs is not an issue,” they said.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2016

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