Medical complex: Polyclinic expansion plan in doldrums

‘CDA summary on expansion pending with prime minister since last year’


Riazul Haq June 26, 2015
The 500-bed hospital caters to more than 2.5 million patients a year. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:


The Federal Government Services Hospital was established in 1966 as a polyclinic, from where it gets its more popular nickname. The 3.3 acre facility originally had around 100 beds as it was meant to be the primary health facility for government servants and their families in Islamabad, while also tending to other citizens. Now a 500-bed hospital, it caters to more than 2.5 million patients a year. But while capacity has been increased, the covered area remains the same, leading to a cramped environment for patients and staff alike.


In spite of the dire need for expansion of the hospital, all proposals seem to have been abandoned or shelved. The issue is only brought up off and on during Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat meetings, and is usually not discussed thoroughly.

Meanwhile, the hospital administration is struggling to manage the ever-increasing patient load.

Proposals to expand the hospital using one-third of the adjacent Argentina Park was first floated in 2000 by the Ministry of Health.

Under the plan, 2.54 acres of the park would be given to the hospital and would eventually house new blocks to turn the hospital into an 1,100-bed medical complex. The project also envisaged neurosurgery, cardiac surgery, plastic surgery, MRI and a state-of-the-art operation theatre.

Initially, the Argentinean government was reluctant to support hospital expansion on parkland, but later it even offered financial and technical support for the project.

In late 2009, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) was asked to transfer the land for the proposed expansion. The project stalled for the next few years, due in part to the devolution of the health ministry. After devolution, the then-Ministry of Capital Administration again asked the CDA for the land, but the civic agency objected on the grounds that the annexation would require modification of the city’s master plan and would thus require prior approval from the Cabinet Division.

The CDA has since sent requests for approval to prime ministers Shaukat Aziz, Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Raja Pervez Ashraf, none of whom green-lit the project.

CADD Secretary Khalid Hanif told The Express Tribune that the CDA most recently requested approval from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The file was sent to the PM a year back, but has still not made it to the cabinet’s agenda.

Under the CDA Ordinance, public parks cannot be repurposed for other uses.

“The plan has not moved ahead because we could acquire the land without the cooperation of the CDA,” the CADD secretary said.

The estimated cost of the project is presently Rs55 million and allocations have been marked in the CADD development budget every year since 2010. No funds were ever released as the land transfer approval has not been granted.

The issue also came under discussion in a parliamentary committee meeting last Tuesday, where members lashed out at CADD as well as the Pims and Polyclinic hospital administrations over the state of services and general cleanliness at the two hospitals.

A few months ago, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) granted a stay order on the proposed expansion after a lawyer petitioned the court.

Last May, the Prime Minister’s Inspection Team invited the lawyer and CADD officials to persuade him to withdraw the case, but the team failed to do so.

“Rapid population growth in the capital has made it impossible to cater to all the patients visiting Polyclinic,” said a senior doctor at the hospital. He opined that expansion needed to be carried out sooner rather than later.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2015.

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