Citizens stage hunger strike over NGO’s failure to run hospital

Qazi Ahmed’s hospital handed over to HIS remain deprived of basic facilities

Sameer Mandhro September 08, 2019
Representational Photo. PHOTO. FILE

KARACHI: The citizens of Qazi Ahmed city has started a hunger strike against the 'improperly-maintained' health infrastructure and shortage of doctors at the Rural Health Centre (RHC) being run by the Integrated Health Services (IHS), a non-governmental organization, under public-private partnership arrangements.

Around 100 civil society activists of the city started hunger strike on August 24 outside the RHC, demanding Sindh government to ensure availability of all doctors and para-medics as well as medicine and equipment necessary for a Taluka Head Quarter (THQ) hospital.

"We will continue hunger strike till hospital administration doesn't provide required facilities," said Hakim Ali Otho, a civil society activist. "It's major health facility for Qazi Ahmed but lacks even basic things," he alleged, saying the administration's apathetic attitude has compelled the citizens to go on hunger strike.

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The RHC was established in 1961 when the population of the city and its adjacent areas was less than 10,000. The Sindh government in 2017 announced to upgrade the hospital to a THQ to cater to needs of the overall population of the city that exceeded to over 100,000.

The civil society activists said that it actually covers at least 350,000 people living in three talukas of district Shaheed Benazirabad.

A health department's official told The Express Tribune that the notification of the THQ was issued in September 2017, informing the Sanctioned New Expenditures has not been sanction yet.

The hospital now caters to the health needs of the entire population between Moro Taluka and Sakrand Taluka. The city is located on the main Super Highways and for that purpose a trauma centre has also been built last year.

"To facilitate the rural population the provincial government established 42 trauma centres and one of them is in Qazi Ahmed," confirmed Director General Health Dr Masood Ahmed Solangi. "It has a modern laboratory, an ambulance and all required equipment," he claimed.

But Otho disputed this statement saying that "The hospital is not working properly. It has only a few doctors and dispensers look after even seriously injured patients at the trauma center."

Dr Solangi said that it was the responsibility of IHS to look after all the matters of the hospital. "We can't interfere into the affairs of the hospital," he said.

Public-private partnership

The Sindh government finding itself unable to deliver health services, handed over 2,273 health facilities to various NGOs, including 111 to IHS. It runs 10 hospitals of Shaheed Benazirabad district, including one in Qazi Ahmed.

The RHC has total 21 sanctioned posts of doctors but according to health department's record 13 vacancies laying vacant there. "The IHS has failed to fill the vacancies," said Dr Solangi. "It's the duty of the organisation to provide all facilities according to the PPP agreement," he added.

Another health official told The Express Tribune that the health minister Dr Azra Fazl Pechuhu was informed in a meeting in August that the performance of the IHS was much below the standard. "We have serious concerns over the performance of the IHS," the official said, adding the health minister has issued directives to IHS chief to abide by the agreement signed between the health department and the organization.

"Yes, we are not satisfied with IHS," confirmed Dr Solangi. "We will ask them to complete the staff and provide better health facilities," he pledged.

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Some other officials ruled out the possibility of doing away with the arrangement between the Sindh government and IHS despite its alleged failure to deliver according to the contract. "They (IHS) enjoy the blessings of a most powerful man in Sindh," said an official.

An official of the IHS Tahir Abbas visited the civil society activists' hunger strike camp, trying to persuade them to call off their hunger strike.

Khan Mohammad Dahiri, the area's Member of Provincial Assembly also approached the hunger-strikers but he failed to convince them as well.

The IHS' chief executive Dr Asim Mahmood was unavailable for comments on the situation.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2019.


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