Provincial health department says federation has to clear Rs100b
The federal government began on Friday the process of taking over Karachi’s Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases and National Institute of Child Health.
The federal government has put forward names for an independent board of governors.
The Sindh health department said it didn’t accept the selection of the board of governors and the case of the three hospitals was being reviewed.
“The review petition is still undecided in the Supreme Court,” it added.
The health department claims the federal government still has to clear funds worth Rs100 billion “in pending costs for these institutes that have been incurred by the provincial government”.
The Supreme Court told the federal and provincial governments to submit a joint statement before the decision is finalised. The statement has yet to be submitted.
“Till the Supreme Court decides on a conclusion towards the review petition, this exchange can not go forward,” it said.
The federal government had taken over the three public hospitals in May 2019. The decision was reversed in March this year.
Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho had said the province’s major public hospitals would not be taken over by the federal government.
“We are very happy that the federal government has decided not to take the JPMC, NICH and NICVD away,” Dr Pechuho had said in a statement. “Sindh has always worked towards serving its people and will keep doing so.”
A spokesperson for the federal government said it was not just Karachi hospitals, but Lahore’s Shaikh Zayed hospital was being taken over too.
The Sindh government has a right to make political statements but we can’t comment on them, the spokesperson said.
PTI leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi says the Sindh government should join the centre in the administration of Jinnah hospital. “We should honour the decision of the Supreme Court,” he said.
Naqvi claims the Sindh government has been involved in corruption in the past. “They have to account for the governance over the past 10 years,” he said.
An independent and unbiased company needs to do a financial and performance audit of these hospitals, according to Naqvi.
If they were transparent and didn’t have anything to hide they should accept the decision to form a board of governors, he said.
A senior doctor at the JPMC, who requested anonymity, told SAMAA Digital that doctors and other employees were agitated because of the hospital takeover.
“The Sindh government spent a lot of money on the hospital and completed all the projects and facilities we requested,” the doctor said. “The federal government hasn’t done anything for the hospital.”
There are two businessmen and a private sector doctor in the board of governors nominated by the federal government, the medical practitioner said.
“Do they want to run the JPMC as a private hospital,” the doctor asked. “They should first stop comparing it with the Shaukat Khanum hospital because they do return some patients but the JPMC doesn’t.
“If we don’t have money, how would we treat every patient who comes to the hospital,” the doctor said, adding that the tussle between the federal and Sindh governments will be a “nightmare” for the JPMC.
“The Sindh government intervenes whenever we have issues like electricity, water and maintenance, and resolves them,” the doctor said, adding that the federal government won’t be able to do that.
In a press conference on Saturday, Sindh spokesperson Murtaza Wahab said that even in these testing times, when the coronavirus is on the rise, the government is not making right decisions.
“Is this the time to take control back? Is this the time to confuse our health workers whether they will get paid by the federal government or the provincial government?” he questioned, pointing out that in the Centre’s priority should be health and forming policies for the benefit of the frontline workers.
“At the end of the day, if these hospitals don’t work, the health secretary in Islamabad won’t be affected,” Wahab said. “It’s the residents of Sindh who will suffer.”
He revealed that for the last 10 years, the expenses of all three hospitals have been borne by the Sindh government. “People from across the country are being provided state-of-the-art health facilities free of cost here.”
The spokesperson gave a breakdown of the funds allotted to these hospitals in fiscal year 2020-2021:
• Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre – Rs3.4 billion
• National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, Karachi – Rs3.8 billion
• National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (Hyderabad, Mithi, Khairpur, Larkana, Nawabshah, Sewan and Sukkur) – Rs3.8 billion
• National Institute of Child Health – Rs932 million
The total amount given to these hospital totals Rs12 billion. “And then these people say, we have taken over these hospitals by the governing bodies,” Wahab added.
The Sindh government has decided to approach the federal government to keep the administrative control of NICVD, JPMC and NICH hospitals under the provincial set-up so that people continue to receive free-of-cost health services.
The decision was taken at a meeting presided over by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Monday.
The chief minister was told that the federation has decided to run these three hospitals under a board of governors. At this, CM Shah said it would be contrary to the Supreme Court’s judgment.
He said his government worked day and night to make these three hospitals one of the best facilities in the country.
“We have not only enhanced their budget but launched new initiatives such as cyberlife in JPMC, established satellite centers of NICVD and upgraded NICH,” CM Shah said.
At this stage, he said, shifting the administrative control to the federal government would badly affect delivery services at these hospitals.
The chief minister asked the health department to write a letter to the federation and apprise it of the situation.
“I’ll also write a letter to the prime minister with the request to sign an MoU with the provincial government to run these three hospitals,” he said.
The story was originally published on March 19, 2021.