Officials of the provincial health department are putting final touches to the proposal for the bifurcation of the department. The health minister, Dr Sagheer Ahmed, however, has distanced himself from the plan and is not taking part in its implementation.
“We have almost completed the project,” said the health secretary, Iqbal Hussain Durrani. “The bifurcation will prove to be beneficial for the people,” he justified.
On the other hand, Dr Ahmed was of the belief that the split will create more problems. “I have not been taken into confidence on the issue of my own department,” Dr Ahmed told The Express Tribune.
“I am not behind this plan [either],” Durrani attempted to clarify, assuming that the minister believed he was responsible for the bifurcation proposal.
The health department received a letter for the final proposal last week. According to the letter, the health department was bifurcated through an amendment carried out in the Sindh Government Rules of Business 1986 on 22 July, 2013, adding that it is still working in the pre-2013 position. “Now, the chief minister is pleased to direct that the bifurcation be implemented in letter and spirit,” it added.
The final proposal has almost been prepared and would soon be sent to the services and administration department. Under the new system, the primary health department would comprise dispensaries, basic health units, rural health centres, taluka headquarters, maternity homes, mother and child health centres, dental clinics, homeopathic clinics, Unani Shifa khanas, medico-legal services and nine vertical programmes.
The secondary health department includes teaching hospitals, district headquarter hospitals, Civil hospitals, major hospitals, specialised hospitals, medical colleges, school of physiotherapy, directorate of nursing, school of nursing, paramedical institutes, public health schools, Sindh medical faculty, chemico-bacterial laboratories, drug administration and councils.
Meanwhile, the dispute is not limited to the minister and the health secretary only. The CM House has also been deliberately avoiding taking the minister on board for key decisions.
With the implementation of the proposal, two secretaries are expected to be appointed while it is also being assumed that both departments would be looked after by separate ministers.
“I think there will be two ministers in the future,” believed Dr Ahmed. The health secretary, on the other hand, could not say for sure if this would be the case. “There may be plans to appoint two ministers but I am not sure about this,” he said.
The secretary and the minister, meanwhile, seem to have fallen apart on the issue of the appointment of project directors of the nine vertical programmes. Dr Ahmed claims the process was not transparent, adding that the same officials were being appointed in programmes again.
“What is wrong if I want to pursue merit according to the court directives,” justified Durrani.
He also stressed that the appointment of the head of the programmes came into consideration in February, when Dr Ahmed was not minister of the department.
The Sindh Medical College conducted the examination of the programme directors and declared their results within an hour. According to Durrani, experts of the JPMC, Dow University of Health Sciences and the Aga Khan University were members of the interview panel which were held on June 16. The final list of the successful candidates is yet to be disclosed.
The health minister has written letters to the Supreme Court, Sindh High Court, Sindh Governor, Sindh Chief Minister, Pakistan Peoples Party’s chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari about the issues in his department.
“I am still waiting for their replies,” he said. Dr Ahmed added that CM Syed Qaim Ali Shah, who is Durrani’s father-in-law, had not addressed any issues in the department.
The general secretary of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Karachi, Dr Qazi Wasiq, said that the bifurcation is nothing but a waste of the resources. “I am personally against this move,” he said. “The actual task should be to implement transparency and eliminate corruption,” he suggested.
Dr Wasiq claimed that there is lack of coordination among different programmes.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2014.