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RAWALPINDI: Two of the city’s biggest government-run hospitals have been operating without heads while the government remains undecided on who to appoint as their permanent medical superintendents.

Holy Family Hospital’s (HFH) medical superintendent, Dr Shahzad Ahmed, was suspended on Jan 8 after Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the hospital and was unhappy with the facilities being provided to patients.

Dr Tariq Masood Khan Niazi, the medical superintendent at Benazir Bhutto Hospital (BBH), was suspended on Feb 4 after a conversation between him and the Punjab law minister was leaked. In it, he appeared to refuse orders to transfer Dr Areeba Abbasi, daughter of imprisoned PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi, to the hospital department of her choice.

Dr Nasir Mehmood, medical superintendent of the Rawalpindi Institute of Urology, has been given acting charge at both hospitals.

Absence of permanent medical superintendents at BBH, HFH has led to decision-making issues

A doctor at BBH told Dawn the absence of a medical superintendent has led to number of administrative issues. The situation has been compounded by the fact that deputy medical superintendent Dr Zafar Iqbal went on leave after he had a heart attack when Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials visited for an inquiry, he said.

Without two key administrative officials, there have been issues with decision-making at the hospital and these will be pending until a new head is appointed.

He explained: “The C.T. scan machine went out of order after an hour, and in the absence of the hospital head no senior official wanted to be involved.”

The hospital is also facing a water shortage, and dialysis machines in the kidney department need repairs.

Meanwhile at HFH, without a medical superintendent no one has the authority to waive pathology fees for patients in the outpatient department. Between 3,000 and 4,000 patients visit HFH every day.

A senior official said the acting medical superintendent has to visit other hospitals and patients and doctors end up waiting hours for their matters to be resolved.

The former chairman of the Young Doctors Association Punjab, Dr Haider Akhter, attributed the provincial government’s failure to appoint permanent medical superintendents at both hospitals to political reasons.

“It is not humanly possible for a person to look after three hospitals’ affairs at the same time. Dr Nasir Mehmood may be good to manage things, but it is a strange decision for the Punjab government to handover three hospitals to him,” he added.

He explained that although the Rawalpindi Institute of Urology is under construction, Dr Mehmood looks after the affairs of the construction project.

Dr Akhter said BBH is facing many problems, including a water shortage and faulty equipment in the radiology and pathology departments.

He added that the government had not fulfilled its promise to reinstate Dr Niazi as medical superintendent.

When contacted, Rawalpindi Medical University Vice Chancellor Dr Mohammad Umer said the provincial government will make merit-based appointments for both posts soon.

“The government has invited applications, and after this candidates will be selected and interviewed by a committee led by Punjab Minister for Health Dr Yasmin Rashid,” he said, adding that the process is extensive and will take time.

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2019