PESHAWAR: The National Institute of Health Islamabad is concerned about non-release of funds to the Public Health Reference Lab by the provincial government and plans to contact the chief secretary this week to ensure availability of the required funds.

The PHRL was established in 2016 as part of the tripartite memorandum of understanding among Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department, Khyber Medical University and NIH. Under the MoU, the department was required to issue funds, KMU had to give the space and NIH was to give technical support to strengthen disease surveillance and investigate diseases and outbreaks for timely response.

However, of late, the lab has sent home 63 of its 73 contractual employees for want of salaries and 10 others have opted to work voluntarily due to ongoing outbreak of typhoid, Congo fever and others ailments. Their contract expired on June 28.

Sources say the NIH executive director will meet Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief secretary this week to apprise him about the situation. According them, all provinces were under obligation to have public health labs in the fulfillment of the WHO’s International Health Regulations to diagnose diseases in timely manner and take prompt steps to avoid outbreaks.

The PHRL required Rs40m to pay salaries to the employees annually. The employees included technicians, data operators and others. Lab received samples from across the province and processed them free of cost. The PHRL, located at the KMU’s main campus in Hayatabad Township, is financed by the health department to process samples that were previously sent to the NIH.

The department has already asked the district hospitals and medical teaching institutions to send samples of suspected Mpox and typhoid as it did most of the tests for 42 notifiable diseases. The PHRL set up 12 other PCR labs with the onset of the Covid-19 in early 2020 at district levels. Those labs are now doing tests for other diseases also, they said.

The monsoon season had already started due to which the secretary health was in contact with finance department for issuance of desired amount to the PHRL employees so that they continue work and get samples for cholera, dengue, Covid-19, MPox, typhoid,, Congo fever, chikungunya,

hepatitis and influenza.

Its role is significant in flood situations where the affected population face water and food-borne diseases and other infections.

Last year, we received very quick result of cholera positive cases from PHRL and prompt response was made and averted outbreak due to contaminated water in many flood-stricken areas, they said.

It will also amount to non-compliance of WHO’s regulations, therefore, the lab should be given attention, they said.

Sources said the lab had so far received Rs7.5 million of the total Rs25 million for the lab. Sources in the health department said the lab had yet to be paid Rs17.5 million. It needed Rs2.84 million for monthly salaries.

The department, according to sources, had expedited efforts to ensure the desired amount and keep the province’s sole lab afloat. They hoped that the planned visit by the NIH chief to meet the chief secretary would help secure the much-needed funds.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

After the deluge
Updated 16 Jun, 2024

After the deluge

There was a lack of mental fortitude in the loss against India while against US, the team lost all control and displayed a lack of cohesion and synergy.
Fugue state
16 Jun, 2024

Fugue state

WITH its founder in jail these days, it seems nearly impossible to figure out what the PTI actually wants. On one...
Sindh budget
16 Jun, 2024

Sindh budget

SINDH’S Rs3.06tr budget for the upcoming financial year is a combination of populist interventions, attempts to...
Slow start
Updated 15 Jun, 2024

Slow start

Despite high attendance, the NA managed to pass only a single money bill during this period.
Sindh lawlessness
Updated 15 Jun, 2024

Sindh lawlessness

A recently released report describes the law and order situation in Karachi as “worryingly poor”.
Punjab budget
15 Jun, 2024

Punjab budget

PUNJAB’S budget for 2024-25 provides much fodder to those who believe that the increased provincial share from the...