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Projects that are ‘less equal than others’

Updated February 08, 2018


LAHORE: As Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif seems solely focused on timely completion of the multi-billion Pakistan Kidney & Liver Transplant (PKLI) project near Bedian Road, many other health projects in Punjab are allegedly being ignored.

During the last six months or so the chief minister is said to have visited the project site seven times to oversee the pace of work.

Much to the annoyance of the poor patients, many health schemes are being neglected -- a complaint that has been raised in the official correspondence between the health authorities and those executing some of these projects. Officials have requested the health department to accord priority to these projects to lessen the ordeal of patients.

In a letter to the health department higher-ups, Dr Sohail Anjum Butt, deputy project director (Project Management Unit) Gujranwala, highlighted the projects allegedly being ignored in five major districts in Punjab.

Citing the case of a 500-bed hospital in Gujranwala, he said, only 20pc of the building work had been completed since 2014, the year when the construction started.

According to the agreement, the building was supposed to be completed in three blocs by the middle of next year (2019) but the target is unlikely to be met.

Similarly, he said, establishment of a burn unit, and construction of hostels for the doctors and nurses are being delayed. He said the health department had appointed one project director (PD) for more than a dozen “missing health facilities” schemes in hospitals in five districts. The department was supposed to appoint project directors for each hospital or district according to rules, he said.

“It’s not humanly possible for a project director to travel extensively to these districts to closely supervise the health projects and have these completed in time,” he said.

After the transfer of the Gujranwala Medical College principal, the request was sent to the health department to appoint new incumbent Prof Dr Sami Mumtaz as project director for the health schemes in the DHQ hospital. “The request has been pending since he took charge of principal in October 2017,” goes the official complaint.

It stated that the project’s financial as well as routine affairs were suffering without a designated project director. The assignments include contract agreement on scheduled payments to the already hired consultants, according to the letter.

“The DHQ hospital failed to start work for a new OPD and critical nature procurement including drugs, medicines, medical & lab equipment, furniture & fixture, plant & machinery, and IT equipment in the absence of the PD,” reads the letter. It further said the teaching hospital was also facing obstacles in its day-to-day financial matters.

He said PD Wasim Abbas had not paid a single visit to Gujranwala, forcing the hospital officials to travel to Lahore.

He said many other projects such as those in Sialkot and Sahiwal were being delayed.

The Punjab health department spokesperson said he would respond to any query on the subject after getting information in a day or so.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2018