It has been a few days since Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) was devolved to the Sindh government, yet many staffers in the hospital's administration are still waiting for answers. As the anxiety of interaction with the relatively unknown and unfamiliar Sindh health department grows there are some whose case is a little more unusual than the rest.
One such person is Dr Muhammad Umar Baloch. This doctor is presently stationed with the Department of Urology at JPMC but is originally associated with the Balochistan health department. His last position in Quetta was as an associate professor at Bolan Medical College where he served a year from 2007 to 2008. In October of 2008 he was sent on deputation to the centre or federal government and was posted to JPMC in Karachi. Baloch was originally sent as a joint executive director but seven months later he joined the Department of Urology. Commenting on the difference in working for the Balochistan health department compared to the federal ministry, he says, "In terms of patient care and discipline, working at JPMC was much better compared to working in Quetta under the provincial health department. If one were to evaluate the ministry versus the department in terms of structure and planning, undoubtedly the Centre has a better set-up."
When asked about his expectation or possible apprehensions of being sent on further deputation from the Centre to the Sindh health department, he said, "I really cannot comment on this right now. I don't have any experience with them. This is still very new. However, I was very comfortable and settled in the set-up under the federal government."
On the issue of contract workers, many of whom are being slowly asked to leave, Baloch says that JPMC's understanding with those in the Centre helped a great deal in extending the contracts for the much-needed extra hands. "The issue with the contract workers is not directly related to devolution," he clarified. "They have been on contract for years. Each year they would receive an extension since their services were needed and JPMC had a good working relationship with those in charge in the Centre." But with the uncertainty of funds being released from the provincial health department there was no choice but to relieve them of their duties.
Meanwhile, the joint action committee at JPMC held a meeting on Thursday morning in which its members decided to fight to maintain their federal status. The outcome of the case filed in the Sindh High Court is awaited.
What news tomorrow will bring is still anyone's guess. Till then Dr Umar Baloch and others associated with the three devolved hospitals (JPMC, the National Institute of Child Health and the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases) can only wait to see what is in store for them.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2011.
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