LAHORE: Once the country’s known teaching institute for dispensing quality healthcare to patients — Shaikh Zayed Hospital, Lahore — is beset with budgetary constraints, Dawn has learnt.
It was one of the leading hospitals which had been the top choice of the bureaucrats, judges, business community and the elite in the past.
However, over 1,000-bed hospital is a picture of neglect due to administrative and financial issues.
The issues came to the limelight when the doctors, nurses and paramedics were not paid salaries for the last couple of months and the shortage of medicines hit the hospital hard.
Doctors, paramedics unpaid for two months; facility short of medicines
Some officials told Dawn that the situation reached an alarming level due to the ‘apathy’ of the federal government which was governing the hospital in Lahore and left it ‘abandoned’ completely.
They said neither the ministry of national health services increased the annual budget of the hospital nor addressed other administrative issues.
Requesting anonymity, an official said the annual budget of the hospital was Rs3.5 billion and no increase was made for the last many years or so despite 36 per cent inflation recorded last year.
He said the Shahbaz government in the Centre had increased 30pc salaries of the federal employees.
Last year (in 2022), he said, the Shaikh Zayed Hospital demanded Rs5.9bn budget to meet the growing financial needs.
However, the ministry turned down the request and released Rs3.1bn only, the official said.
He said this year in June the hospital again sent a request to the ministry to increase the budget to Rs6.5bn, saying that the facility was in dire need of additional budget otherwise it may reach on the verge of closure.
The federal government again turned a deaf ear to the request and released only Rs3.5bn.
Resultantly, the official said the hospital faced severe financial constraints and failed to pay salaries to the staff and provide medicines to the patients.
He said the total liabilities of the institute reached Rs2.5bn, including Rs1.2bn on account of medicines.
Another factor that added curbs on the hospital’s management was the dispensation of the allowance to all the regular employees — from guards to the teaching faculty.
The allowance was equal to the basic salary of an employee and the hospital’s then chairman Prof Dr Kamran Hussain resumed it in 2018 ignoring the facts that the federal government had declared it ‘illegal’.
He said the allowance was frozen in 2022 following the instructions of the federal government.
However, the then chairman of the institute, Prof Sibgha Zulfiqar, again resumed the allowance in June 2023 on the recommendations of an internal committee she had formed on the pressure exerted by the union leaders of the institute.
The official said the dispensation of the allowance at a time when the hospital was in a dire need of budget further aggravated the financial and administrative affairs.
In a related development, the Young Doctors Association (YDA) of the institute held a press conference here on Wednesday and raised serious concerns over the deteriorating affairs of the health facility.
Particularly, they highlighted non-payment of salaries to the medics for the last two months and non-availability of medicines, surgical items etc.
President YDA chapter of Shaikh Zayed Hospital Dr Hassan Raza Kathya told the media that salaries to the young medics had not been increased since 2019 due to the financial issues.
He warned to close down the healthcare services at OPD and indoor departments of the hospital if the core problems were not addressed.
Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2023