Punjab govt fails to release Covid fund despite onslaught

Published September 18, 2021
Hospitals are unable to fulfill obligations as Punjab govt fails to release Covid funds. — Dawn/File
Hospitals are unable to fulfill obligations as Punjab govt fails to release Covid funds. — Dawn/File

LAHORE: The Punjab government seems indifferent to the repeated requests of the health authorities for the release of Rs2 billion funds reserved for the evolving situation of the fourth wave of Covid-19.

It is evident that the fourth wave of the infection has touched its peak and the Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Department (SH&MED) has sent the fourth reminder to the government for the emergency provision of requisite funds for the state-run hospitals facing financial crunch.

The Rs2 billion funds were allocated in July last for the procurement of instruments and medicines for Covid-19.

Hospitals are unable to fulfill obligations

An official claimed that some teaching hospitals had warned against a possible ‘mishap’ due to the severe financial crisis they were facing during the peak season of the infection. He said the government hospitals had failed to pay the salaries to the doctors and make vital procurements during the ongoing wave of Covid-19.

The official said the SH&MED had demanded at least Rs1 billion out of the funds to steer the state-run institutions out of ‘financial crisis’.

In the latest letter, the SH&MED has given reference of the earlier letters sent to the Punjab finance secretary on Aug 2, Aug 13 and Aug 26 for the release of the funds. The department further informed that various health institutions/hospitals were demanding funds to meet the requirements including salaries of the doctors. The institutions have hired doctors on lump sum pay packages to combat Covid-19.

“The matter has been examined and found that during the current financial year 2021-22, the finance department had made block allocation of Rs2 billion for Covid-19 Combat in Grant-in Aid which has not been released so far,” reads the letter (a copy has been shared with Dawn).

The Punjab finance department is again requested to release Rs1 billion as an emergency grant out of the total Rs2 billion to combat the fourth wave.

Through the letter, the health department has also sought approval for advance withdrawal of funds so that the released funds may be provided to the respective field formations/Covid-19 health facilities of the SH&MED during the current financial year 2021-22.

Meanwhile, 1,227 more people tested positive for the virus during the last 24 hours taking the total number to 419,424. Of them, 553 positive cases were reported in Lahore, 111 in Rawalpindi, 56 in Faisalabad, 46 cases in Sargodha, 42 in Bhakkar, 40 in Multan, 36 in Chakwal, 34 in Rahim Yar Khan, 30 in DG Khan and 25 in Okara.

The Covid death toll was 12,343 after 26 patients died in Punjab. The overall positive rate of corona was recorded 6.8 per cent in Punjab; it was 10pc in Lahore and 8pc each in Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Multan.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2021

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