ISLAMABAD: All five public sector hospitals in the federal capital and Lahore’s Shaikh Zayed Hospital may be staring at a virtual standstill after the Finance Division rejected a request by the federal health ministry to provide a supplementary Rs11 billion for the smooth functioning of these hospitals.

Salaries for a number of employees have already been stopped, and nurses at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) have been protesting for over a week now.

The labs of these hospitals will also soon stop functioning completely, as testing kits are running out of stock. Radiology tests are also being refused because films are not available, and medicines are being denied to patients as the tender amount has not been paid to companies.

The hospitals and departments that will be affected because of the decision include five hospitals in the federal capital: Pims, Polyclinic, Federal General Hospital, National Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine (NIRM), dispensaries, basic health units, ancillary departments of the health ministry, and institutes.

Finance Division cites IMF preconditions, says more money can only be released in event of ‘disaster’

Moreover, Shaikh Zayed Hospital Lahore will also be affected as it is run with the funding of the federal health ministry.

On the other hand, the Finance Division has informed the health ministry in writing that, as per the preconditions of the Inter­national Monetary Fund (IMF), funds can only be released in case of a disaster.

Last month, the health ministry had requested the finance ministry to release a supplementary grant of Rs11.096bn for the smooth functioning of hospitals, organisations, and ancillary departments of the ministry.

“M/O National Health Services’ proposal for supplementary/technical supplementary grant for Rs11.096 billion has been considered in Finance Division. As per commitment with the IMF, no supplementary grant for any additional unbudgeted spending over the parliamentary approved level in FY 2023-24 may be allowed until the formation of new Government (except if needed to respond to severe national disaster),” the letter written by Finance Division and available with Dawn stated.

According to sources privy to developments, the refusal by the Finance Division will trigger a virtual disaster in hospitals run by the federal ministry and patients may not even get a single rupee’s worth of medicines.

“We currently foresee a severe shortage of medicines as we don’t have the amount to pay for the tenders and get the pending stocks released. Moreover, there is also a severe shortage of testing kits in labs, and X-ray films and other radiology tests are also in short supply,” a hospital source told Dawn.

The source added that the situation may worsen further as a number of doctors, nurses, and other staff in the hospitals are either not getting their salaries or their salaries will be stopped next month because of the unavailability of funds.

“In the coming months, there might be severe shortage of doctors, nursing staff, medicines, and facilities of tests, even in emergency departments may be stopped. If that situation cannot be called a disaster, than what else should be called?”

Dawn tried to reach out to the Ministry of National Health Services, but officials could not be reached for comment.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2023

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