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PESHAWAR: The Sarhad Rural Support Programme will end its long collaboration with the health department as the latter has refused to pay it Rs170 million as administrative cost of the programme.

The SRSP, under the People’s Primary Healthcare Initiative (PPHI), has been running 572 basic health units (BHUs) in 17 districts of the province since 2007. “Initially the programme covered a few BHUs in two districts which were increased from time to time,” sources said.

Under the programme, the government issues one-line budget to SRSP, which spends it to employ staff, carry out repair work and buy medicines and equipment to ensure smooth sailing of the healthcare activities at the grassroots level.

However, after a controversy over the provision of amount to meet administrative cost, SRSP asked the department to end the contract because it could not meet the expenditures from its own resources. The health department argued that the administrative expenditure was not included in the agreement due to which it could not pay it.

Sources told Dawn that the agreement between health department and SRSP had come under scathing criticism from the district health officers (DHOs). The DHOs claimed that they were competent to run the entire district health facilities, therefore, the BHUs should be given to them, they added.

Last year, the government extended the contract till 2018 because it believed that the performance of NGO to end collaboration with health dept SRSP-covered BHUs was better than that of others, which were managed by the department itself.

Some two months ago, the health department had asked the DHOs to take over the BHUs from SRSP in their respective districts when the latter expressed its inability to run the health facilities. The DHOs were taking over control of BHUs from SRSP but they were stopped, sources said.

Sources in SRSP said that PPHI programme was started in 2007 in all provinces by the federal government. The centre paid administrative cost to SRSP in all provinces but stopped it in 2012 and conveyed to the provinces that they should pay the cost if they wanted continuation of the programme.

“The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister approved a plan to pay administrative cost to SRSP in 2014 but we have not received it yet. We have to maintain 17 offices in as many districts and one head office in Peshawar from where we carry out monitoring and supervision of the facilities and the staff,” they said.

These sources said that despite several letters to the health department, there was no reply which meant that it was not interested in continuation of the programme due to which their Board of Governors decided to part ways with it.

“For the last few months, we have been short of budget to pay salaries to the staff engaged in management activities as well as rent of the offices,” they said.

Sources in the health department said that the previous government awarded contract to SRSP through a simple agreement without any competition. The government had to follow lengthy procedure for filling up vacant posts, purchase of drugs and equipment and doing repair work due to which the patients suffered, they added.

They said that SRSP, being independent of the government’s rules, employed staff and fulfilled the needs without any rules. “We have now Health Foundation Act in place through which we can advertise to find contracting partners through open bidding. Our DHOs have also expressed willingness to manage the BHUs,” said the sources.

Published in Dawn September 5th, 2016