PESHAWAR: Corruption inquiries have caused a long delay in the installation of six full-body medical scanners at public sector hospitals in tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The scanning machines were procured bythe health department more than four years ago at the cost of Rs900 million under the accelerated implementation programme to get better images of the inside of patients’ bodies to find indications of medical conditions, according to officials.

They told Dawn that the medical scanners, which cost Rs150 million each and promised full-body scanning of patients, were lying at district headquarters hospitals in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (now tribal districts) packed up.

The officials said the installation of machines was blocked by inquiries into the alleged misappropriation of funds during their procurement.

Officials say health dept in contact with NAB for issuance of NOC

They said first, a departmental inquiry was launched to check if any corruption or corrupt practices occurred during the purchase of that modern equipment for diagnostic imaging, but the probe was later closed, while in 2022, the National Accountability Bureau Khyber Pakhtunkhwa began looking into those graft allegations that delayed their installation, much to the misery of patients in tribal districts.

The officials said the former caretaker chief minister had requested the NAB ensure the early installation of medical scanners in DHQ hospitals to the benefit of patients, and the latter verbally agreed to do so, but there was nothing on the ground.

“The NAB had agreed to allow hospitals to fix and use those scanners amid its inquiry. However, the anti-graft watchdog didn’t convey anything about this to us in writing. As a result, the machines are lying unused,” a health official told Dawn on condition of anonymity.

The official said last year, two tribal DHQ hospitals—one in Mishti Mela area of Orakzai district and the other in Wana tehsil of Lower South Waziristan district—formally requested the provincial director-general (health services) to relocate medical scanners to other health facilities in the “best public interest.”

The hospitals insisted in formal communications that the machines remained nonfunctional in the past due to the unavailability of an “express line” in the respective areas, and currently, they’re awaiting inspection by biomedical engineers of the health department for operation.

They added that if there were unfeasible circumstances for the “functionalisation” of those scanners, then they could be shifted to other health facilities in the “best public interest.”

Officials of the health department told Dawn that those machines had the capacity to perform full-body scanning in less than a minute for the speedy diagnosis of medical conditions in six tribal hospitals, but corruption allegations blocked their installation, depriving residents of their benefit.

They, however, claimed that the department was making every effort to get those scanners installed at hospitals at the earliest possible time.

“We have requested the finance department to allocate Rs10 million for the installation of scanners, and hopefully, we will get the money soon,” an official insisted.

He said the machines would provide X-ray, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (BRI) facilities to hospital visitors free of charge.

The official said the health department had contacted the NAB to issue a no objection certificate for the installation of those machines, but the latter’s response was awaited.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2024

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