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PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department has decided to terminate contract with Sarhad Rural Support Programme, which runs basic health units in 17 districts of the province, after appointments of doctors, paramedics and other staff, according to sources.

The government began outsourcing basic health units to the local NGO, SRSP, in 2007 after finding it difficult to fill the vacant posts at the medical facilities and improve patients’ care.

Presently, SRSP under its People Primary Healthcare Initiative (PPHI) in collaboration with health department has administrative and financial control of more than 570 basic health units in the province.

“Recruitment of human resources is complex and lengthy procedure under government rules. It deprives patients of medical care at the primary level while SRSP can employ people on vacant positions within weeks as it is not bound to follow rules,” said sources.

A few months ago, the health department instructed the district health officers (DHOs) to take charge of basic health units from SRSP in their respective districts.

Health dept hires over 1,200 medical officers to run the facilities

Sources said that the government recently appointed more than 1,200 medical officers. Ninety five per cent posts of medical officers were filled and the government was no more dependent on the NGO for prompt hiring. All the DHOs had shown readiness to take over charge of basic health units.

“We have filled all vacant posts of doctors and don’t require any support. In 38 of the 41 basic health units, we have appointed doctors. The district health system has become strong finically and administratively after getting autonomy,” Swat DHO Dr Said Ali Khan told Dawn.

He said that they had trained staff that could monitor and supervise functioning of the health outlets effectively. “We are ready to take over BHUs,” he said, adding that posts of paramedics and nurses were also filled.

Sources said that health department had vested more powers in DHOs, enabling them to procure equipment, medicines and make appointments at local level. They said that 80 per cent of the 450 doctors, who previously worked at PPHI, were employed by the government two months ago.

Sources said that about 212 PPHI employees, who worked on administrative positions, would lose their jobs. The PPHI submitted a petition in the court after health department decided a few months ago to end the contract. The employees pleaded that they would be rendered jobless in case of termination of the contract. They got a stay order from the court. However, the government resumed work with SRSP and court wrangling ended.

The latest move of the health department to take back BHUs, outsourced to SRSP, prompted the employees to revalidate the stay order, granted to them earlier. The hearing of the case is fixed for October 27.

Sources said that they were not employees of health department as they didn’t posses appointment letters by government but they request continuation of their services due to their experience.

The department also faced problems in monitoring of the primary health facilities and relied on PPHI’s monitors to ensure prompt medical supplies and human resources. The ADHOs in every district have been empowered to manage the basic facilities effectively.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2016