PMA accuses healthcare commission officials of harassing, blackmailing doctors

December 14, 2019


DR Abdul Ghafoor Shoro representing the Pakistan Medical Association speaks at a press conference held at the PMA House on Friday.—White Star
DR Abdul Ghafoor Shoro representing the Pakistan Medical Association speaks at a press conference held at the PMA House on Friday.—White Star

KARACHI: Accusing the Sindh Healthcare Commission (SHCC) officials of “misusing authority, harassing and blackmailing doctors” at a press conference held on Friday, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) demanded that the government restructure the commission as per law and remove “corrupt directors” from the body.

The event was organised at the PMA House.

Expressing deep concern over the current state of affairs at the commission, Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, PMA-Karachi general secretary, said that over the past few months the association had been approached by a large number of doctors especially from the interior areas of Sindh, all accusing the SHCC officials of “misconduct, harassment and blackmailing”.

“At a recent meeting held in Karachi, complainants including doctors and administrators of different healthcare facilities shared that commission officials were raiding hospitals and clinics and sealing them on the spot after expressing dissatisfaction over how these facilities were being operated,” he said.

The commission, he alleged, was violating the act which called for third-party evaluation through independent performance/clinical audit of healthcare establishments in the private sector. The commission’s officials were not authorised to carry out inspection.

“The commission was set up to improve the standards of healthcare facilities and to eliminate quackery from Sindh.

“But, unfortunately, its officials are harassing and blackmailing qualified doctors and indirectly supporting quackery,” he alleged, regretting that the association was deeply disappointed as it helped the government pass a law to regulate the healthcare system.

Recalling why doctors felt the need for such a regulatory body, Dr Qaiser Sajjad, PMA-centre secretary general, said the idea was to provide a forum to families accusing doctor/s of negligence and death of their loved ones, and discourage violence, to report their complaints.

“Still, we believe that the commission should continue but with an improvement in its operation for which the regulatory body must stop acting like a police force. If officials find some deficiencies at a health setting, they should inform the relevant administration in writing about them and give it sufficient time to reply to commission’s reservations,” he said.

Actions like raiding and sealing premises, however, were a violation of the act and counterproductive as they discouraged qualified doctors already working in a compromised and unfair system, he argued.

The PMA representatives alleged that doctors whose health facilities had been sealed were called to the SHCC office in Karachi where they had to wait for hours, at times for days and months, before they were finally fined for de-sealing their premises.

This was really traumatic and creating unrest, especially among doctors working in the interior areas of Sindh.

“If this situation persists and doctors took law into their hands, the commission would be responsible,” he warned.

“We demand that the commission be restructured as an autonomous regulatory body per law, posts advertised and experts appointed on merit,” he said, criticising that all this was happening under the incumbent acting chief executive officer.

Dr Qazi Wasiq, PMA-centre treasurer, said the country had various medical societies working in specialised areas for decades and had developed guidelines for professionals.

“The commission needs to first develop guidelines in consultation with relevant stakeholders, create awareness on this and give time to relevant practitioners before questioning them over their procedures,” he said.

Sharing details of his encounter with SHCC officials, Dr Saad Khalid Niaz, one of city’s leading gastroenterologists who conducts free of cost clinic at the Civil Hospital Karachi, said officials questioned him over the endoscopy procedure, sterilisation and use of specific equipment, which were being done as per international standards.

“God forbid, we are not criminals. This is a specialised area for which guidelines are developed by professional bodies,” he said, describing the approach as extremely discouraging for doctors engaged in volunteer work.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2019