PESHAWAR: The Health Foundation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has deferred the plan of outsourcing 58 hospitals to private organisations under the public-private partnership initiative after former health adviser said that it was a policy matter and could be taken by an elected government, according to sources.

“Last year, the government decided to outsource these health facilities and completed the process of selecting final bidders but a former adviser on health to caretaker chief minister stopped the process,” they said.

They said that Prof Abid Jameel, who held the portfolio of health adviser in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa caretaker government briefly, refused to approve the process of outsourcing hospitals. “He said that it was a policy decision and caretaker government was not authorised to take such decisions,” they added.

Sources said that health department had completed first phase of the bidding process for handing over those hospitals to NGOs under the law for better operations as 25 of the 54 firms had been shortlisted. The hospitals were identified but health department got them reassessed through World Bank to know exactly their issues for the information of private organisations before their outsourcing through bidding.

Ex-health adviser says only elected govt can make such major decisions

An administrative officer of a private organisation told Dawn that they were among the aspirants to get contracts of some health facilities but the decision by the former health adviser stopped the process. “It can create legal issues for us because the caretakers are required to hold general elections and stay away from taking major decisions as per law,” he quoted the former health adviser as saying.

Health Foundation, a public sector entity established under Public Private Partnership Act, 2016, wanted to contract out hospitals to non-governmental organisations.

However, now it has stopped the process and is waiting for the elected government to outsource the health facilities.

The foundation has so far contracted out 19 health facilities in erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Chitral since 2016 when an elected government was in place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Sources said that those hospitals including district and tehsil headquarters hospitals had been handed over to private parties after an assessment carried out by health department showed that their performance was not up to the mark.

“It is a big decision involving health facilities in all districts. An organisation will get more than one facility in the same area to manage them effectively,” sources said. But after the health adviser’s stance, even the private parties lost interest in securing contracts and signing agreements with the caretaker government due to fear of legal hassles in future, they said.

They said that public-private partnership was in place in other provinces too. The provincial government wanted to continue with outsourcing hospitals because the already contracted out facilities had shown good performance during the past few years, they added.

“Some of the hospitals have been providing better services to the patients in harder areas where people were complaining when those facilities were been contracting out,” said sources.

As per agreements inked with NGOs about the outsourced hospitals, the government releases budget on quarterly basis provided the contracting parties ensure availability of staff, equipment and specialised healthcare, especially lady doctors and nurses.

Sources said that some of the outsourced health facilities cut down services when the government stopped funding to 11 of 19 hospitals early that year. However, the amount was released after six months when recommendation by an oversight committee, formed by the government, linked provision of money to performance of the outsourced hospitals.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2023

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