PESHAWAR: The government has decided to replace the members of the Board of Governors of three medical teaching institutions after the passage of Medical Teaching Institutions Reforms (Amendment) Bill 2020, according to officials.

They said that government was trying to remove the BoG of MTIs Nowshera, Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan for alleged violation of rules but failed to do so because of legal issues.

The previous provincial government of PTI enforced Medical Teaching Institutions Reforms Act in 2015 under which teaching hospitals were freed from the control of health department and boards of governors were formed to run their affairs.

The 10-member BoG, including seven members from private sector and three from government department, were nominated by search and nomination council headed by health minister for three years. However, there was no clarity about the removal of the BoG members.

The BoGs have unbridled financial and administrative powers to use the one-line budget according to the need of their institutions and make top appointments without any input from the health department.

Officials said that many amendments were made to the law from time to time but need for the latest amendment was felt following emergence of issues at the MTI-covered Nowshera Medical College/Qazi Hussain Ahmed Memorial complex, Mufti Mehmood Teaching Hospital DI Khan/Gomal Medical College and Khalifa Gul Nawaz Hospital/Bannu Medical College Bannu as government failed to take any action.

The government appointed members of BoG in eight MTIs on Oct 5, 2018. Despite attempts, the government could not remove the BoG members in three MTIs, prompting it to amend the law to pave way for their replacement, said officials.

The amendment empowers the government to de-notify MTIs and revert to the old system where health department could run them. It also authorises the government to change BoG of the MTIs anytime it wants.

Sources said that BoG at those MTIs would become the first victims of the newly-passed amendments to MTIRA. All those BoGs, sources said, enraged the government by making high-ranked appointments without fulfillment of the laid down criteria but obtained relief from the court when the government wanted to initiate action against them.

The allegations regarding out-of-merit appointments and procurements at these MTIs have been the main reason for the recent amendment to enable the government to get rid of the BoG and appoint new people, who can be held accountable in future.

Sources said that the MTIs were given instructions by the government from time to time regarding illegal appointments and other irregularities but they continued to ignore the directives. The government wants to remove the chairpersons of the BoG and may retain some of its members, who are retired health professionals and want to ensure the enforcement of government’s policy of reforms in health sectors.

“The BoG chairmen make decisions unilaterally and despite opposition by members, they approve appointments and purchases. The appointments of highly-paid positions, such as dean, hospital, medical, finance and nursing directors weren’t made in a transparent way,” said sources.

They said that health department looked as silent spectator when the irregularities were taking place because it had no power. “Now, the government has all the powers and would soon replace the three MTI boards,” they added.

Even the standing committee of provincial assembly on health took notice of anomalies in these MTIs but nothing happened and they continued to deal the matters in accordance with their sweet will.

The architects of MTIRA proposed few amendments to resolve the issue and ensure accountability of BoG in future, said sources.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2020