Office of health CEOs squeezed following outsourcing of public hospitals

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LAHORE: After failing to run the public sector hospitals and health centres in the provincial capital, the Punjab government has outsourced a score of district and tehsil headquarter hospitals to private companies, squeezing the office of the health chief executive officers (CEOs), Pakistan Today has learnt.

Last year, the Punjab government had established the district health authorities (DHAs) all over the province under the direct administrative control of deputy commissioners. Under these DHAs health bodies, the CEOs were given a major role to run the administrative system of the healthcare facilities, including the teaching hospitals, district headquarters (DHQ) hospitals, tehsil headquarters (THQ) hospitals, rural health centres (RHCs), basic health units (BHUs) and maternal and child health centres.

However, last year the Punjab government handed over all the basic health units, rural health centres and other small hospitals to the newly-established Punjab Health Facility Management Company (PHFMC) while providing it with funds directly. Under the control of this company were the Ghaziabad hospital, Samanabad hospital, Sodiwal hospital, Babhra dispensary, Shahdrah hospital, Swami Nagar eye hospital, six rural healthcare centres and 37 basic healthcare centres in the provincial capital. In this way, the authority of the DHA was limited to the Mian Mir hospital and the dispensaries located in the provincial capital.

Moreover, a large number of Lahore’s DHQs and THQs including the Raiwind hospital, Manawan hospital, Shehbaz Sharif Ludhar Hospital, Sabzazar Hospital and the Kahna hospital were outsourced to the Indus hospital.

Sources said that after taking the control of these hospitals, the Indus hospital handed over the services of doctors, nurses and paramedical staff to the district management while recruiting new staff of its own will. They said that before the outsourcing of these hospitals, the Punjab government had been releasing funds as per the budget, but now the budget was increased from five to ten per cent.

“Unlike the public hospitals, the new administration of the said hospitals is just treating a limited number of patients that is making other patients suffer. Several patients have also been forced to shift to other hospitals,” sources said and added that while many patients had complained of having to wait for a long time in order to seek treatment.

A senior official in DHA while expressing his concerns told Pakistan Today that prior to the outsourcing, these hospitals were facilitating a large number of patients but now the patients were being treated at a smaller scale while they were also being humiliated by the new administration. He said that the hospitals under the DHA were being run in a better way than that of now. He added that due to the outsourcing of public hospitals, the fate of the DHA officials and staff was hanging in balance.

This correspondent tried to contact Provincial Minister for Primary & Secondary Health Khawaja Imran Nazir, but he was not available for a comment. Despite several messages being conveyed through his personal assistant, he did not respond.