LAHORE: Contrary to its tall claims of providing uniform healthcare, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led Punjab government has jeopardised medical care facility for nearly 1.5 million poor patients by freezing grants of seven public hospitals being run under public-private partnership, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government collaborated with Indus Hospital (Karachi) and handed it control of seven mid-size public hospitals, including the 150-bed Multan Institute of Kidney Diseases, the 400-bed Recep Tayyip Erdogan Hospital in Muzaffargarh, the 61-bed Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif Hospital in Lahore and the Tehsil Headquarter Hospitals in Manawan (100 beds), Raiwind (60 beds), Sabzazar (100 beds) and Kahna Nau, Lahore (100 beds).
However, without making an alternate arrangement, the PTI-led Punjab government has decided to break this arrangement. The government has already indicated that it has no resources to continue this arrangement and will revert these small-scale healthcare units’ control to the government from the next financial year. Initially, the PTI government has started to delay payment and now it has stopped releasing funds as agreed by previous Punjab government, which resulted in that salaries of hospital staff have been delayed.
A senior official of one of these hospitals lamented that the present government is going to ruin the state of the art health delivery system. Earlier, these public healthcare facilities were in shambles. But after this arrangement these hospitals are not only serving masses effectively but also reducing the burden of government of its responsibility of managing and running the hospital.
The staff of these hospitals have been recruited by the Indus Hospital. Government has to spend no money for their pension. The taking back of these hospitals will deprive the people of quality care which they are enjoying presently.
This step may result in the unpopularity of the government which has come with a slogan of change for the better and not the worse. It is need of the hour not only to continue with this partnership with necessary changes but also further it for improvement of healthcare in the THQ and the DHQ hospitals so that the patient load is reduced on tertiary care health facilities.
Another official highlighted that this is a fine example of private public partnership. It can serve as a model to extend healthcare facility to peripheral areas of the country. The services of the Indus Hospital (Pakistan) under the leadership of Karachi heart surgeon Dr. Abdul Bari Khan have been acknowledged even internationally. This year, Dr. Abdul Bari was awarded Hilal e Imtiaz in recognition of his services.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, locals of these areas have commented positively about facilities provided by the Indus Hospital management. Citizens said patients are provided free admission, free medicine and even free meals during their hospital stay. A patient said, “These were the best days of my life. Although I was admitted to a hospital, I had a clean bed, good food and pleasant environment for the first time ever.”
Official statistics made available to The Express Tribune showed that accumulatively these hospital provided healthcare facility to some 1.49 million patients in 2017-18 for which the government has provided Rs3.94 billion in grant and the rest is generated through Zakat, donations and other hospital incomes.
Indus Hospital CEO Dr Abdul Bari Khan confirmed that the Indus Hospital was facing difficulties in running operations in Punjab due to change in government priorities. He said his organisation is trying to continue medical care facilities under available resources. He indicated that he is visiting provincial capital to resolve this issue with provincial government as these hospitals are Punjab government’s property and the government knows better how it wants to run these hospitals. “We have no hard feelings whatever the government decide about the fate of these hospitals,” he concluded.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2019.