PESHAWAR: Officials at medical teaching institutions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are hopeful that the newly-elected government, comprising PTI members, will address their financial issues that have led to drug shortages and delayed salary payments.

The MTIs, totaling 10, have been facing a financial crisis since the end of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s government in January last year, as the subsequent caretaker administration didn’t provide them with the required funds for their affairs.

The law on MTIs—the Medical Teaching Institutions Reforms Act—was enforced in 2015 by the then first PTI government in the province, claiming the initiative will grant financial and administrative autonomy to the public sector teaching hospitals and their affiliated medical and dental colleges, and check political and bureaucratic interference in their matters.

Previously, the hospitals operated under the health secretariat, which took all decisions about them. However, the MTIRA led to the formation of boards of governors, which govern MTIs, with the health secretariat having very little say in their decision-making process.

They face drug shortages, delayed salary payments due to financial crisis

“We [MTIs] used to have enough funds in the PTI’s first and second governments because the then ruling party owned us and ensured smooth cash flow to us, but since the caretakers resumed power in January 2023, we have been facing serious financial issues,”the dean of a Peshawar MTI told Dawn.

He said the institution’s employees got their salaries 15 days after the start of every month, unlike other government employees, who were paid at the start of every month.

“MTIs are also short of medicines and disposable items, much to the misery of patients, who have to buy them from the market,” he said.

The dean said things were “really bad” in the accident and emergency departments of the MTI due to the shortages of lifesaving drugs for those brought in with wounds or critical issues.

The medical director of another MTI told Dawn requesting anonymity that the institution requested the health and finance departments every month for the release of funds to pay salaries to employees, purchase medicines for visitors, and procure things required for building maintenance and cleanliness, but to no avail.

He said the finance department released salary funds late.

“The caretakers didn’t take interest in MTIs that increased our issues,” he said.

The medical director said the PTI government used to regularly provide MTIs with funds on a quarterly basis, so he hoped that the newly-elected government, which was led by PTI leader Ali Amin Gandapur, would do the same to the relief of those medical teaching institutions.

Another MTI director told Dawn that the caretakers appointed new BoG members in all MTIs to get rid of those appointed by the PTI and even tried to do away with the MTIRA but that didn’t happen because only the provincial assembly could repeal a law.

He said even a caretaker health minister resigned after his boss, the chief minister, wanted him to remove MTI BoGs.

“The health minister argued that the BoG removal is a policy decision, which, under the law, can be taken by an elected government and not caretakers,” he said.

He said almost all MTIs in the province were in a bad financial situation, but it was likely to improve after the new government, comprising PTI leaders, would “take control of affairs and ensure the release of adequate funds.”

The director said medical specialists had so far quit MTI jobs.

He said two months ago, an intensive care specialist for a MTI called it a day.

“Most MTIs desperately await cash, whose release is likely to happen after the appointment of the new health minister, possibly from the PTI,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2024

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