Devolution of powers: Federal government wants to hold on to pricing and registering drugs and disease prevention

DG health hints at making some hospitals autonomous.


Tufail Ahmed December 09, 2010

KARACHI: As Sindh gears up to take on the responsibility of five federally run ministries as part of the new devolution process, there is concern about certain functions staying with the Centre.

Daily Express has learnt that the federal health ministry wants to hang on to the responsibility of drug registration, price control and the prevention of certain diseases. In a bid to keep control of them, the ministry submitted an application with these recommendations to the committee overseeing the delegation of ministries to the provincial government under the 18th Amendment. The ministry also presented its point of view to the chair of the standing committee for health, Dr Nadeem Ahsan.

Several hospitals in Karachi, including PIMS, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), the National Institute for Child Health (NICH), the National Institute for Cardiovascular Disases (NICVD), are managed and funded by the federal government. The question is now whether their control will be handed over to the provincial government. Handing over the health department is a technical process and we have to smoothen out the problems or the public will be directly affected, maintained the federal officials.

According to an official in the federal ministry, they have written to the committee informing it about 10 schemes on drug registration, pricing control and other projects that are run with the help of international institutions such as the WHO and Unicef. These are the projects that might run into problems if the department is handed over, they argued.

For example, a drug that is registered in one province cannot be registered in another province and this is too problematic for consumers. Similarly, the prices of medicines will not be the same across the country, which is unfair.

The devolution of power has been stirring much debate in the corridors of the city’s key hospitals. On Friday evening, a representative of the federal health ministry, director-general Rashid Jooma, said that the NICH and other federally run hospitals in Karachi would be made autonomous in a few months. This could be a third option, reported APP. While addressing NICH doctors and medical staff at its fifth annual symposium, Jooma said that rules are being framed to finalise the autonomous status of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) and NICH. As for the 18th amendment, he said devolving autonomy was good for administration, however, there was a need to duly protect the national institutions that serve the people. Dr Jooma, who has served as the director of JPMC, also hinted that Jinnah hospital and its allied teaching hospitals may be developed into a university.

A senior JPMC official told The Express Tribune how there was a wave of happiness in the hospital these days over the possibility that they could become autonomous. What is not clear yet, the official said, is whether Jinnah hospital is on the Concurrent List. The government has already announced the five ministries that will go to Sindh — Population Welfare, Special Initiatives, Youth Affairs, Zakat and Ushr and Local Government and Rural Development. “We are waiting to see what the next five ministries will be,” the official said.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2010.

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