The phenomena of ghost employees burdening the public exchequer is not a new one, it has plagued government institutions for decades.
However, In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), it is not just any government employees that have gone missing but doctors. As per a recent report of the Independent Monitoring Unit (IMU), around 31 doctors have been reported as indefinitely absent in Karak, the second-largest city in Kohat Division of K-P.
While these doctors may not be reporting for duty, they are still on the books and have been withdrawing their monthly salaries from the provincial health department. However, sources in K-P’s Health Department privy to the matter, told The Express Tribune under the condition of anonymity, that the ghost doctors situation was not only limited to Karak but was prevalent across the province. “There are many ghost doctors, including lady health workers, and other support staff at hospitals that are regularly withdrawing salaries but do not report to work,” an official disclosed.
The official further said that so far the provincial government had failed to crack down on the practice effectively. “Until the government and health department take notice, this lawlessness will continue unabated in the province because even hospital administrations are not interested in taking action,” the official informed this reporter, adding that the practice was causing massive losses to the public exchequer. According to the IMU report, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, in primary health care units across the province only 61% medical officers were available. Similarly, only 67% of lady health workers were available at facilities across the province. The report also shows that a lack of medical officers in health care facilities is at a whopping 70% in Kolai Palas, Hangu, Mansehra, D.I. Khan, and Kohat. Whereas in South Waziristan it is at 80%.
On the other hand the absence rate in Swabi is at 20% and 30% in Lakki Marwat. Provincial Minister for Health, Taimur Khan Jhagra, when asked about K-P’s ghost doctors, was of the view that such a problem did not exist. “Our government has hired a record number of doctors, lady health workers, and nurses in health facilities across the province,” Jhagra remarked. He further claimed that there was no concept of ghost doctors in the province at all.
“We have established a special monitoring unit, which is in-charge of keeping a check on the presence of doctors. If we receive any complaints then the health department takes actions against such doctors and other staff of the health department, across the province,” K-P’s health minister told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 28th, 2022.
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