King Edward Medical University (KEMU) is to develop a new diagnostic laboratory on Jail Road that will become the first lab attached to a public medical school in the province that also works on a private basis, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The university hired a building on Jail Road and has been paying rent since November 16, 2011, said an official privy to developments. He said the lab will open in about two months and the project would cost Rs37 million.
A Health Department official said that this would be a first in the Punjab. “There isn’t any public medical school or university with a lab that also works privately,” he said. He added that the chief minister might have concerns about this as it did not fit in with his ‘Health Vision’, but the university was autonomous and the decision was of its Academic Council.
According to documents available with The Express Tribune, the lab will have an x-ray machine, ultra sound machine and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, the last a piece of equipment not even available at Mayo Hospital, KEMU’s attached teaching hospital.
“This means that the poor patients at Mayo Hospital will have to go to the lab to get their tests. This is absolutely against the model of free healthcare in the Punjab,” said a senior doctor at Mayo Hospital.
The laboratory will be open to patients from public hospitals from 8am to 2pm, after which it will cater to private patients. This is modelled after the Punjab Institute of Cardiology.
Dr Javed Akram, who is Punjab president of the Medical Teachers Association (MTA) and principal of Allama Iqbal Medical College, said that he hoped the model would be successful, but he had his doubts.
“The poorest of the poor go to public hospitals for treatment. They simply cannot afford to get tests from outside,” he said. However, he added that public hospitals needed funding. “We have to get funds, either from the government, through charity or by doing public-private partnership,” he said.
A senior KEMU faculty member said that rules had been broken in the building rental, as public universities looking to rent a private building were required to advertise a tender and this had not been done.
KEMU Vice Chancellor Dr Asad Aslam Khan denied this. “We advertised the tender and fulfilled all formalities. We even got an NOC [no-objection certificate] from the government to rent a private building for the lab,” he said.
The vice chancellor said that the laboratory was needed as currently 50 to 60 per cent of patients had to be sent to other places for tests.
“Patients admitted in Mayo Hospital will be charged no extra money for the tests. After 2pm we will have a reception and the lab will work as a private business. We will fix our charges at half the market rate,” he said.
Dr Khan said that the lab would also serve as a collection centre, so patients could pick up test results or hand in samples for testing 24 hours a day. He did not give a date for when the lab would open, but said it would be “quite soon”.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 9th, 2012.