PESHAWAR: Undue interference by former health minister Dr Hisham Inamullah Khan in the affairs of medical teaching institutions led to his replacement by Shahram Tarakai, who was brought in to expedite the implementation of Medical Teaching Institutions Reforms Act, 2015, according to sources.
The health minister was removed in a cabinet reshuffle on Saturday allegedly on the recommendations of the people tasked to implement the reforms agenda of the ruling PTI in health sector.
The MTIRA 2015 was implemented by the PTI government in its first stint in the province to bring reforms and improve patients’ care. The law faced stiff resistance from the stakeholders, including doctors, nurses and paramedics, who not only observed strikes and also challenged it in the court due to which its enforcement was delayed by more than one year.
Towards the end of 2015, the law was cleared by court that paved the way for its implementation initially in Khyber Teaching Hospital, Hayatabad Medical Complex and Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar and Ayub Medical Complex in Abbottabad to change the health system and replace it with a new one.
Dr Hisham Inamullah says he honours the decision of party leadership
Under the new system, the medical teaching institutions operate independently from the health department through their respective Board of Governors.
There was some progress with regard to introduction of reforms as the then health minister Shah Ram Tarakai was a staunch supporter of the reforms agenda. However, the pace was slow.
When PTI won the elections for the second time in the province with good majority, the architects of the law hoped its speedy enforcement because it faced no cases in the court or resistance from the stakeholders.
Meanwhile, PTI made Hisham Inamullah Khan as health minister but he couldn’t deliver and failed to make any impact about the MTIRA’s enforcement and remained at loggerhead with the MTI-covered institutions.
Sources said that the minister continued to call KTH medical director Rohul Muqeem for making some appointments, which he refused continually. Later, he was removed for incorrect insertion of intravenous canula but he was restored by the court. Soon, he resigned.
The minister also used to call the nursing director of KTH for allotment of houses to some people, who were not eligible, sources said. They said that the minister’s attitude embarrassed the top officers of the hospitals because they were not obliging him as after the MTIRA’s enforcement, the MTI-covered hospitals didn’t come under the health department.
In May last year, the health minister allegedly beat up a general surgeon at KTH, which sparked protests by doctors and the strike continued for 40 days. The removal of minister became a permanent demand of the medics.
Sources said that the policymakers of PTI were not happy with the minister, who had appointed people on administrative positions known for their ineptness for the past 20 years. Junior people were given senior positions at the offices of directorate-general of health, which not only put into reverse gear the reforms programme but enraged the people, who were pushing the PTI’s agenda of brining improvement in patients’ care.
Prof Nausherwan Burki, the chairman of Prime Minister Task Force on Health, told Dawn that they wanted to enforce Regional and District Health Authorities Act, 2019 and improve healthcare at grassroots level.
However, sources said that the minister had not shown any interest in enforcement of the law, which deeply embarrassed Prof Burki and others, who were behind the reforms agenda.
Meanwhile, the authorities are pinning hopes on the new minister to complete the Rs700 million renovation project at KTH, speed up appointment process of personnel on top positions in MTIs, especially at KTH.
Also, they expect him to end the culture of strikes witnessed by people in hospitals during the past one year and let the institutions work smoothly.
Dr Hisham, when contacted, said that he directed and conveyed the policy of the current government to the MTIs. “What else for would I interfere. These are all rumours,” he added.
He said that he didn’t know as to why he was replaced. “But I am happy Shahram Khan is the right man for the right job and confident that he will deliver,” he added.
Dr Hisham said that he was very satisfied and looking forward to the new assignment with zeal and spirit. He has been made minister for social welfare department. “And lastly, I honour with all my heart every decision that the party leadership takes concerning me,” he added.
Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2020