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September 1, 2018
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‘Medical superintendents to be appointed through online test’

Karachi

September 1, 2018

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The newly-appointed Sindh health minister, Dr Azra Afzal Pechuho, has hinted at appointing medical superintendants and heads of medical institutions from the private sector, saying an online test is being introduced so that competent persons could be appointed to lead the tertiary-care hospitals, medical institutions and the “so-called” vertical programs.

“We are going to review the policy of appointing senior officials who are about to retire as medical superintendants, and they plunder so much money that after retirement, they establish their own hospitals,” Dr Pechuho said while giving an exclusive interview to The News at her office.

Medical superintendants and heads of institutions would “now be appointed after an online test and interview, based on their qualifications and they can also be from private sector.”

The Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) was preparing an online test for aspiring candidates who wished to head tertiary-care hospitals in Karachi and the rest of Sindh, medical institutions and the so-called vertical programs, she said and added that doctors and experts from the private sector would be encouraged to come forward and help improve the quality of healthcare at public sector hospitals.

The health minister vowed to appoint district health officers (DHOs) on merit after an online test and an interview, saying officers had started approaching her for appointing them as DHOs, but she had made it clear that she did not know anybody in the health department so all the appointments would be made on the basis of expertise and qualifications.

Responding to a question regarding the out-patient department (OPD) timings at the public hospitals, she agreed that doctors, including professors and consultants, should see patients at least for eight hours at public hospitals and then they might do their private practice.

“Like the NICVD, doctors can be asked to start their private clinics at the public hospitals in the evening so that they remain available to the patients for a longer period of time,” Dr Pechuho said and added that this would also lower the burden on emergencies of tertiary-care hospitals where people went due to early closure of OPDs.

Speaking about the unavailability of medicines to patients and substandard medicines being purchased for the public sector hospitals in the province, she conceded that financial embezzlement was the biggest reason for the two problems, which were putting thousands of lives in danger.

“As far as substandard medicines are concerned, they are purchased citing their low cost but these medicines are proved substandard and ineffective in most of the cases. They are also resulting in drug resistance as they lack active pharmaceutical ingredients.”

From now onwards, she said, medicines from only reliable multinational and national companies would be purchased.

The health minister said purchase committees would comprise competent and honest experts and they would be given a list of prequalified companies for the purchase of medicines so that patients could get reliable medicines instead of substandard and spurious liquids and tablets.

The health minister pointed out reported embezzlement in the “local purchase” of medicines by the medical superintendents and warned that this practice would be curbed at every cost and they would not be allowed to plunder public money meant for the purchase of necessary medicines and equipment for needy and deserving patients.

Implementation of laws

Dr Azra Pechuho said the Sindh Assembly had passed several health bills which had become provincial laws and were meant to be implemented. “I have asked my staff to present me the bills and laws passed by the provincial assembly so that progress on their implementation could be checked. I’m in favour of implementation of laws and soon most of these bills would be implemented in letter and spirit.”

Child marriages

Citing the legislation against early or child marriages in Sindh, she said this law gave powers to the police to intervene and now whenever police got any tip-off regarding any underage marriage, they intervened and arrested the people involved.

“Earlier, police had no jurisdiction in child marriages as there was no law to prevent such ceremonies, but now the police is doing its job and this legislation has proved to be effective,” she observed.

Doctors on leave

The health department has started biometric verification of health department employees to ascertain the strength of the department, she said and added that doctors and officials who were on ex-Pakistan leave would be issued with notices to join their offices or they would have face action.

Infant deaths in Thar

Regarding deaths of children in Tahrparkar, Dr Azra Pechuho said early marriages, poverty, nutritional status of mothers, scarcity of clean drinking water, scattered population and many other issues were responsible for the deaths of infants in the desert area, but the government was giving special emphasis to improving the socio-economic conditions of the people of the area.

“In addition to the availability of health facilities, there is a need for creating awareness among mothers in Tharparkar who are still applying cow dung on the umbilical cord of newly born babies, which causes sepsis and deaths.”

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