Bureaucratic quicksand: Argentine envoy upset by Polyclinic expansion delay

Ambassador laments official apathy towards a public health initiative


Riazul Haq July 23, 2015
Ambassador laments official apathy towards a public health initiative. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:


Argentine Ambassador Rodolfo J Martin-Saravia has requested the government to remove hurdles in the Polyclinic hospital expansion project.


The ambassador has been involved with the project, which has been delayed for several years. “I have been meeting prime ministers, CDA chairpersons, senators and bureaucrats, but the project has yet to see daylight,” the envoy said in an interview with The Express Tribune on Thursday.

The main hurdle has so far been the Capital Development Authority (CDA)’s refusal to approve the project since it violated the city’s master plan.

Saravia was also awarded Hilal-e-Pakistan on March 23, 2015, in recognition of his “keen involvement” in the construction of a new block of the hospital.

Meant to be the primary health care facility for government employees and their families, the hospital originally had around 100 beds and was spread over 3.3 acres. It is now a 500-bed hospital, which caters to more than 2.5 million patients annually.



However, the hospital has been struggling to cope with the increased patient load for years. Its outpatient departments are crammed with visitors on most days, while the emergency often runs out of beds.

Next to the hospital lies Argentina Park, a public park named by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to acknowledge the country’s efforts to end the 1971 war between Pakistan and India.

A proposal to expand the hospital into one-third of the park was first floated in 2000 by the then federal health ministry. Under the plan, 2.54 acres of the park were to be given to the hospital, doubling its current capacity.

The new block is designed to house facilities of neurosurgery, cardiac surgery, plastic surgery, MRI and a new operation theatre and would take hospital’s capacity to 1100 beds.

The ambassador said amendment to the master plan for a humane cause should be no big deal.

“I have seen every nook and corner of the hospital, with two patients on one bed and three patients in an intensive care unit,” he said and wondered what stopped the government from undertaking this necessary project.

The envoy said there were several examples when the CDA overlooked or allowed construction in violation of rules.

Senators in a parliamentary body meeting in June had also raised concerns at the delay in the proposed expansion project.

Health ministry had approached the CDA to acquire the land for the hospital but the project was put on hold since the health ministry was devolved to provinces in the 18th Amendment.

The Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) took over and approached the civic agency, which said since the plan needed an amendment to the city’s master plan it needed approval from the Cabinet Division. Approval from the government has been pending ever since.

Saravia said he was going to retire next year after serving 12 years as ambassador to Pakistan and wanted this project to be the highlight of his time in the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2015.

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