The Sindh Health Department says it is not sure whether the federal government is serious about taking administrative control of three of the province’s major public hospitals.
“They are giving us mixed messages,” said Sindh Minister for Health and Population Welfare Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho in a press conference on Thursday.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has also spoken on the matter earlier. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan is not interested in taking over these hospitals. Their finance department claims they don’t have the money to run these hospitals, said the health minister.
“We don’t know if they’re serious or if it’s a political move to show the centre’s control,” Dr Pechuho said. “Provinces can run their own hospitals better. Trying to coordinate service delivery, systems and legal issues sitting in Islamabad will be very difficult.”
The Sindh government has filed a review petition in the Supreme Court, she announced. If by March, the centre doesn’t announce funds for the hospitals in their budget, we’ll know they aren’t interested and Sindh will have its say, stated the minister.
A notification in January said three of Sindh’s public hospitals, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases and National Institute of Child Health, will be taken over by the centre as per the Supreme Court’s orders.
In February, the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination issued a notification instructing the Sindh health secretary to transfer the record files of the hospitals so the centre could assume charge.
The centre had taken over these hospitals last year in January after a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court. However, the hospitals were returned to the Sindh government after a few months due to financial issues.
After the 18th amendment, health and service delivery were given to the provinces, argued the Sindh health minister: The federal government isn’t talking to us about this. They come to hospitals, do photo ops and then leave. They need to give us a budget and operational plan.”
In response to this decision, doctors at Jinnah held protests and shut down OPDs on Thursday. Professors and doctors are protesting because they believe they will be relegated to lower posts, said the health department. The Supreme Court’s instructions, however, clearly say the decision should have no effect on studies or employment, said the health minister.
She added that Health Secretary Dr Zahid Ali Abbasi had met the protesters and listened to their demands.
The health minister also reiterated her decision to form the Sindh Medical and Dental Council this year. We have drafted the bill and it’s been sent to the law department for review, she said. Once it’s vetted it will go to the parliament.
Rabies has killed four people in Sindh this year
More than 2,000 dog bite cases have been reported in Sindh in January this year. The health minister informed the press that there have been four deaths due to rabies. She said the stray dogs were local government’s issue and her purview is limited to rabies cases and anti-rabies vaccine.
“I would like to never see a child mauled by dogs again,” Dr Pechuho said.
Regarding the shortage of anti-rabies vaccine the health secretary said the supply issue had been resolved.
“We have given the target of 140,000 vaccines to the federal government this year,” Dr Abbasi said. They have 35,000 vaccines in supply right now, he added, which have been procured for Sindh’s hospitals.
No coronavirus cases in Sindh
All the people in Sindh suspected to have COVID-19 tested negative, Dr Pechuho declared. Around 21 suspected samples were sent to the NIH to be investigated.
“There’s no need to spread false rumours and scare people. There are no coronavirus cases in Sindh or anywhere else in Pakistan,” the health minister confirmed.
In Sindh, three hospitals have been designated to test and isolate coronavirus cases. These are the Aga Khan University Hospital, Dow University of Health Sciences Ojha Campus and Jinnah Hospital.
There have, however, been 129 H1N1 influenza cases, said Dr Pechuho. Five people who had the disease died, but their deaths were due to complications of underlying conditions, said the minister.
New nutrition and obstetric care plan
“We’re going to start a project, 1,000 days of continuum care, with the help of the World Bank,” Dr Pechuho said.
It will be a joint venture of the provincial health department and poverty alleviation department. The initiative aims to improve the reproductive health of women as well as the nutrition of their infants.
The focus will be on increasing institutional deliveries by trained midwives to prevent medical complications and reduce maternal mortality. Government dispensaries will be transformed into obstetric care units, the health minister said.
“We’re in the process of training 2,000 midwives,” she added.
Seven such dispensaries were already inaugurated in Tharparkar in October last year and three midwives have been appointed to each one. Dispensaries in Thatta and Badin will also be identified and transformed in a similar manner.
The issue of shortage of doctors in rural areas remain, lamented the health minister, because doctors from urban areas don’t want to go to these far flung districts.
Control of NIPA Chowrangi hospital given to Dow
The government hospital at NIPA Chowrangi has been given to Dow informally, declared Dr Pechuho.
“It’s almost complete. As soon as works and services hand it over it’ll be transferred. We’ve asked Dow to handle the revenue component to make the hospital better.”
The 400-bed hospital was built in Gulshan-e-Iqbal to provide residents with a public hospital. Its fate had been uncertain over the last few years.