Awaiting nod: Independent board to manage health

Published: January 3, 2017

ISLAMABAD: All healthcare delivery units will soon be governed by an autonomous board in order to streamline and synchronise scattered healthcare services from primary to tertiary care level, according to a proposal put before the prime minister.

The independent board, placed under the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD), will oversee the financial, human resource and management affairs of all the government hospitals and rural healthcare centres.

Currently, government hospitals and health centres in rural areas have been working under five different ministries and divisions. Primary healthcare is under the interior ministry, while tertiary care is under CADD and the Capital Development Authority (CDA), which hinders continuity and coordination.

Patients are transferred from primary to secondary and then tertiary care centres and it becomes a huge problem if all the healthcare centres are under the control of different bodies. Besides, there is often irrational placement of doctors and other healthcare staff in hospitals because of transfers and postings issues as they work under different ministries. Major hospitals have almost all the required doctors, while half of the basic healthcare units have no doctors available.

To streamline the system, on August 1, the prime minster approved bringing all hospitals and healthcare units under one ministry. A committee with representatives from all the ministries was then formed by the PM to brainstorm a healthcare setup and come up with ways and modalities to run the healthcare service delivery set up efficiently.

The committee held meetings to discuss various successful healthcare models from various countries over the issue and agreed to a consensus draft of some recommendations that were recently submitted to the PM.

According to the decision, an independent and autonomous board would serve as an administrative body for all the major hospitals and basic healthcare units in ICT after the enactment of a new law. The committee also has drafted a law which may be enforced via an act of parliament or an ordinance.

As various corruption scandals in hospitals, including one relating to the purchase of medical gases by Polyclinic, were heard in Supreme Court, it was decided that hospitals will not be authorised to directly buy or sell medical equipment, and the autonomous board will handle such issues.

Khawaja Zaheer, an assistant to the PM who was heading the committee, confirmed that it has submitted its recommendations to the prime minister after studying successful health models.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2017.

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