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Govt ends autonomy of PKLI, takes its control

Updated March 15, 2019


Health experts fear the project may meet the same fate like that of many other mega public sector teaching hospitals of the province. — Dawn/File
Health experts fear the project may meet the same fate like that of many other mega public sector teaching hospitals of the province. — Dawn/File

LAHORE: The autonomy of the mega charity health project – Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute (PKLI) & Research Centre – ended after its control was handed over to the government after the passage of a bill by the Punjab Assembly.

The multi-billion rupee mega health facility was to be run on the pattern of the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital (SKMCH) and Research Centre, Lahore or the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT), Karachi. Health experts fear the project may meet the same fate like that of many other mega public sector teaching hospitals of the province.

While passing the bill on Wednesday, the Punjab Assembly abolished the board of trustees of the 820-bed PKLI.

Under the new set-up, the Punjab government has practically closed the chapter of Prof Dr Saeed Akhter as president and the chief executive officer (CEO) of the PKLI. In future, it will be run by a board of governors (BoG) like that of Jinnah Hospital, Services Hospital and other public sector hospitals.

‘Second attempt to dent autonomy, institute suffered Rs6bn loss during suo motu by ex-CJP’

The PKLI was to be extend to 1,500 beds, including 100-bed each for emergency centre, intensive care unit (ICU), and outpatient dialysis centre, 500-bed in-patient facility, 20 operating rooms and 10 same-day surgery suites.

Located on 50 acres in the Lahore Knowledge City near Bedian Road, the project was established by the PML-N government.

Since Prof Saeed had conceived the idea of establishing and manning the facility largely on the basis of donations, the incumbent government tactfully ended his role in the PKLI by getting the bill passed from the assembly.

The apex court, under the then Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, had removed Prof Saeed, the head of the PKLI, in September 2018 and appointed an ad hoc committee to run affairs of the institute. He was restored as president of the PKLI by the Supreme Court on March 1.

“It is second serious attempt to dent on the autonomy of the institute,” regrets Prof Saeed Akhter.

Talking to Dawn, he said shortly after the passage of the bill, four senior Pakistani doctors from America have refused to serve at the PKLI.

Last night, four leading doctors, namely Prof Dr Aftab Ahmad (medicine), Prof Zafar Hassan (surgeon), Prof Faiq Hameedi (psychiatry) and Prof Sajid Ahmad (cancer specialist), from the US refused their services for Pakistan when they came to know that the PKLI’s control had been given to the provincial government.

He claims that during his world-over visits, 100 competent Pakistani doctors had shown their keen interests to leave their practice worth millions of dollars abroad and join the PKLI at average salary packages.

“Any government agency can obtain record of my travel history. I traveled four times each to the US and the UK on my own expenses to bring trained human resource to Pakistan,” he says.

Explaining the `second attempt’ against the autonomy of the institute, Prof Akthar said the PKLI had earlier suffered a loss of Rs6bn during the 11-month period of suo motu notice taken by the then Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar.

As the former CJP had ordered investigation into the project, all the financial and administrative matters of the PKLI were brought to a standstill.

“The former CJP had separated me from the multi-billion project in the name of investigation, leaving it to the discretion of those who had nothing to do with it,” Prof Akhter complains.

According to him, the Infrastructure Development Authority Punjab (IDAP) was tasked with responsibility for the procurement of all the surgical and medical equipment for the project, however, the equipment could not be imported due to so-called massive investigations in the wake of the suo motu notice that lasted approximately more than 11 months.

Since the project was largely dependent on charity and donations, the board of trustees had collected a donation of Rs80m from a local health facility – Pakistan Kidney Institute – for the procurement of equipment.

The board also managed to collect donations of Rs43m for expenses on various kinds of surgeries.

“It is a matter of serious concern that the IDAP and PKLI top officials spent most of the time in the corridors of the investigating agencies instead of completing the target of equipment procurement,” Prof Akhter says.

However, after the retirement of Justice Saqib Nisar, the PKLI successfully conducted first-liver transplant this month which was to be carried out in September last.

Mr Akhter says all the expenses of highly expensive surgery were borne by the board of trustees by utilising funds from Rs43m donations.

“We missed our target of surgeries from the pending list of patients during the suo motu notice period which was another major loss to the ailing humanity,” Mr Saeed Akhter bemoans.

The Hepatitis Prevention and Treatment Programme (HPTP) was another mega initiative which suffered immensely during that period.

“Our HPTP was recognised in its infancy by the World Health Organisation for its excellence,” he says.

Under this programme, the PKLI has conducted 914,872 lab tests, 15,775 ultrasounds, 4,942 procedures of FibroScan and 2,243 of endoscopy.

“The above services were conducted totally free of charge in one year in the 24 clinics set up all over the Punjab province and we wanted to take this model to the entire country,” Prof Akhter says while giving details.

The PKLI, under its various projects, had provided free and subsidised treatment to 89pc patients out of the total 2.2m visited there since its inception,” Prof Saeed Akhter says while talking about the performance of the institute.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2019