LAHORE: The Punjab government is handing over six mobile health units to an equipment supply company which has no prior experience in delivering healthcare services in remote or backwards areas, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Executive district officers (EDOs) for health and the Pakistan Medical Association have condemned the government’s decision. They said the project would likely be a waste of money and the mobile health units, once imported, should be controlled by district governments.
According to Health Department records, the six mobile units costing around Rs300 million will be imported from the Netherlands through equipment supply company Medi Urg. These mobile health units are to start operating from November 15 in remote and flood-hit areas of Muzaffargarh and Rajanpur, and then in late November in Bhakkar, Mianwali, DG Khan and Bahawalpur districts.
The government will pay the salaries of the staff Medi Urg needs to hire to operate the units. Each mobile unit must have one medical officer (at a salary of Rs50,000 per month), one female medical officer (Rs60,000 per month), one lady health visitor (Rs20-25,000 per month), one bio technician, one laboratory technician, one extra technician, and other paramedics.
Various EDOs said that the Punjab government was putting the Rs1 billion project at risk by giving it to a company with no experience in delivering healthcare services in the field. They said that Medi Urg was mostly staffed by retired Army officers with no experience in medical services.
The EDOs said that they should control the mobile health units. “The district-level health departments already have staff and doctors and the government should use them. It would be much cheaper,” said one EDO.
They said the Rs1 billion cost of the project would be better spent on improving rural health centres, basic health units or tehsil headquarters hospitals.
PMA Punjab President Dr Ashraf Nizami said the government had made a bad decision that would be a source of embarrassment to it in the future. He speculated that Medi Urg may have ties to powerful people in the Punjab government.
He said it was strange that the government was sending in mobile health units to the flood-hit areas when all non-government organisations had already left those areas.
Manzoor Ahmed, the managing director of Medi Urg, admitted that the company had no experience in delivering healthcare services, but added that it had hired experts who did have the relevant experience.
He said the EDOs had no experience in running mobile health units either, since this was the first time they were being used in Pakistan. He said that the company expected to operate these units for 20 years.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2010.
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