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ISLAMABAD: A Senate committee on Tuesday was stunned to learn that a company formed by the PML-N government four years ago to construct 45 hospitals has not even built one.

The Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination met at Parliament Lodges with Senator Mian Ateeq Sheikh in the chair.

The meeting was informed by Secretary Health Naveed Kamran Baloch that the Health Infrastructure Development Management Company could not take off even after four years.

He said the company was set up at the Prime Minister Secretariat and a joint secretary was running its affairs.

Company was established four years ago by PML-N under ex-PM’s health reforms programme

He added that a few days ago the caretaker government placed the company under the administrative control of the ministry of health.

An official of the health ministry told the committee that Rs3 billion had been allocated for the company but “I think the funds were not released,” he said.

“Why the company could not take off even after four to five years,” the committee chairman wondered and directed the concerned directorates to come up with details.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif under his ambitious health reforms programme had set up the company keeping in view of the emerging healthcare demands in the country. The hospitals were supposed to have capacity of 500, 250 and 100 beds.

The company was to construct hospitals in three phases. During the first phase, 14 hospitals were to be established in different parts of the country.

Earlier, the committee passed the West Pakistan Juvenile Smoking (Repeal) Bill 2018 moved by Senator Mushahidullah Khan. In its statement object and reasons, the mover of the bill stated that the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan in a report had proposed to repeal the West Pakistan Juvenile Smoking Ordinance 1959.

The committee also discussed the West Pakistan Prohibition of Smoking in Cinema House (Repeal) Bill also moved by Senator Mushahidullah Khan. However, the committee later decided to get an input from the law ministry before deciding the fate of the bill in the next meeting.

Earlier, the committee chairman expressed concerns over variations in medicine prices. He said a drug whose price was fixed by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) at Rs280 was available in Rawalpindi’s Bohar Bazaar at Rs38. He also gave the example of some other drugs which were being sold at exorbitant rates.

However, the secretary health said Drap would present its point of view in the next meeting to satisfy the committee members.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2018