A one-third cut in the budget and a ban on new recruitment resulting in a staff shortage in the capital’s public hospitals have had an adverse affect on primary healthcare services in rural areas which were already in deplorable condition.
Recently, the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) and Polyclinic Hospital have withdrawn 26 of its medical staff from the 25-bed integrated rural health centre (RHC), Bhara Kahu. Pims has also stoped supplying medicines to the RHC due to which over 450 patients who visit its out-patient department daily are suffering.
According to documents available with The Express Tribune, 42 staffers including a medical officer, general surgeon, nurses, laboratory technicians, ward boy and dresser were appointed at the RHC out of which 29 were from Pims, seven from Polyclinic Hospital and six security guards from civil defence. Polyclinic Hospital has withdrawn all of its staff and Pims has called back 19 staffers, according to the documents.
“We are facing an acute shortage of staff due to the ban imposed on fresh hiring by the government, so we decided to call back our staff from the RHC,” said Dr Sharif Astori, spokesman at Polyclinic Hospital.
Acting chief of Pims, Prof. Mehmood Jamal said he was not aware of the issue as he had recently taken charge. On discontinuing the supply of medicines to the RHC, he said the hospital was already facing a financial crunch due to the recent 30% cut in the budget and facing difficulty in meeting its own demand for medicine.
The health centre was upgraded to provide basic health facilities to the rural population in surrounding areas up to Murree and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The ICT had claimed the RHC was a mini hospital and planned to upgrade all health centres.
The RHC which was inaugurated in April 2011 by former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani was a matter of pride for both the former government and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration. Gillani had also announced Rs10 million for upgraduation of the health centre.
A staff member at the health centre requesting anonymity asked, “When there is no doctor and no medicine, who will come here for treatment?” Despite the newly-elected government’s tall claims of improving health services it is depriving them of the right to access basic healthcare facilities, he said.
Sobia Khan, a resident of Bhara Kahu who came to the RHC said this was the third time she had come to get medicine but was refused. “This health centre was a blessing for people who cannot afford to travel to Pims or Polyclinic but now the government has snatched this facility from us.”
The Express Tribune tried to contact Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Amir Ali Ahmed, but he was unavailable for comments.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2013.