LAHORE: Following a two-year delay allegedly caused by bureaucratic hurdles, the Punjab chief secretary has finally recommended the names of four senior most doctors, including principals of two government-run medical colleges, to Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi for his approval for their promotion to BS-21.

The names of the four senior doctors were approved by the Provincial Selection Board-I (PSB-1) from amongst first 20 professors on seniority list presently serving across the province.

Those recommended in the summary for promotion to BS-21 are (seniority wise) Lahore General Hospital Professor of Medicine Dr Ghias-un-Nabi, Ameer-ud-Din Medical College Principal Prof Sardar Al-fareed Zafar, Allama Iqbal Medical College (AIMC) Principal Prof Nadeem Hafeez Butt and AIMC Professor of Paediatrics Prof Aysha Arif.

Setting aside the previous practice of selecting senior doctors on the basis of their “meritorious services”, this time the government shortlisted first four senior doctors in Punjab from the seniority list of BS-20 doctors, to consider them for promotion in the next grade.

‘Bureaucratic hurdles’ delay filling of four BS-21 posts in health dept

In the last such promotion process held in 2019, the government had to face some issues when it had shortlisted three senior doctors and awarded them BS-21 on the basis of their “meritorious services/outstanding achievements”. They included the then principal of the Services Institute of Medical Sciences Prof Mahmood Ayaz, Children Hospital Lahore Dean Prof Masood Sadiq and AIMC Professor of ENT Rashid Zia.

Former KEMU vice chancellor Prof Asad Aslam Khan, Fatima Jinnah Medical University VC Prof Khalid Masood Gondal, (retired) professor of dermatology at KEMU Dr Atif Hasnain Kazmi and (retired) professor of radiology at Fatima Jinnah Medical College Prof Safdar Ali Malik were also promoted to the BS-21 for their “services and achievements”.

An official privy to the development, seeking anonymity, alleges some bureaucrats in health department and Civil Secretariats have strongly been opposing the policy of granting the health professionals their right to promotion to the top two grades -- BS-21 and BS-22.

He says the four BS-21 seats had been lying vacant for the last two years, but the promotion process of doctors was ‘halted willfully’ by the bureaucracy.

Presently, the official says, around 400 medical professors are serving in BS-20 under the Punjab government’s two health departments and many of them were nearing retirement despite qualifying for promotion to BS-21.

He says Institute of Child Health Lahore head Prof Masood Sadiq is the only medical teacher serving in BS-21 in Punjab. After serving in BS-21 for three consecutive years, Prof Sadiq now qualifies for promotion to the BS-22, the apex grade that has so far been awarded to only three medical professional in Punjab health department -- King Edward Medical College ex-principal late Prof Iftikhar, KE ex-principal Prof Mahmood Ali Malik and Prof Naseer Mehmood Akhtar.

Under the laid-down policy, the official says, the federal government had a few years back allocated 12 promotions to BS-21 to the senior doctors serving in Punjab. However, the top bureaucracy in Punjab used its influence and ‘bulldozed’ the scheme, slashing the number of promotions to six only, he laments. Of these, five promotions were to be granted to the medical teachers and one was reserved for the doctors from the general cadre.

However, these six promotions were never granted to the senior doctors in Punjab, he regrets, adding that the prime reason was that the entire PSB-I comprises bureaucrats, headed by chief secretary, while its other members include secretaries ( of the Services & General Administration and the health departments), with no representation of the health professionals.

“The health secretaries, mostly holding BS-21 and in some cases even BS-20, may be feeling uncomfortable while dealing with health professionals serving in BS-21 or BS-22,” the official says. Two of the four senior doctors recommended recently for promotion to BS-21, are retiring next year, he adds, to substantiate his point.

To a question, he says, there are reports that the Punjab chief minister has accorded approval to award BS-21 to the four doctors proposed by the PSB-1, but they fear that the bureaucracy may delay their notifications deliberately “as it has been doing in the past.”

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2022

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