Under duress: Govt succumbs to political pressure over managing BHUs

Published: July 1, 2016
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Units were being run by PPHI since it had been functioning as SRSP’s sub-contractor. PHOTO: FILE

Units were being run by PPHI since it had been functioning as SRSP’s sub-contractor. PHOTO: FILE

PESHAWAR: The provincial government appears to have stepped back and stopped interferring into problems faced by basic health units (BHUs) across the province.

Although the provincial government had directed the district health officers to take charge of BHUs, political pressure has, reportedly, compelled the government to withdraw its directions.

According to insiders, the health ministry issued a statement on June 19 which categorically stated that the provincial government will now be running the primary health care facilities. It claimed the government has empowered deputy district health officers (DDHOs) to manage affairs of facilities across the province.

As per the terms of references mentioned in the notification, the DDHOs were directed to regularly visit the facilities in their respective districts at least once after every two months. Since the provincial government had recently delegated sufficient financial powers to district health mangers, it has enabled them to remove the deficiencies hampering the effective and smooth service delivery at grass-root level health facilities.

The health facilities were handed over to the provincial government after a long time since the facilities were being managed by the Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP). However, they were being run by People’s Primary Healthcare Initiative (PPHI) which has been functioning as SRSP’s sub-contractor.

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The department officials had been saying that the health facilities should run within the control of the provincial government but some political figures had been creating hurdles and they were powerful enough to replace even ministers for speaking against the PPHI.

Former health minister, health DG and a health secretary were reportedly relocated over the same issue where a former secretary was competent enough that he had extended the contract until 2018.

Since the memorandum of understanding was reached between the SRSP and the provincial government, a few days earlier, the SRSP management, during a high level meeting at Chief Minister House expressed his reservations over the extension of the contract.

“Yes, they were running some 576 BHUs in 17 districts for a long time but the men behind the contract were so powerful that no one could confront them,” a senior health official said during an informal meeting.

“I wonder how the provincial government asked DDHOs to take control of the BHU,” he questioned. I bet, this notification will be withdrawn.”

The health facilities were, without any doubt, improved and the health services improved since it was also appreciated by the public. However, with a notification and then an immediate reaction to the notification has certainly raised questions.

Some believe the notification was withdrawn following pressure from the health employees working at the BHUs since they had taken to streets against handing over the BHUs to the government. Others believe the provincial government once again succumbed to pressure from an influential figure of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2016.

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