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April 26, 2019

Sindh asks Centre to clarify if it really wants to run three public sector hospitals


April 26, 2019

The Sindh government has approached the Centre to clarify whether or not it wants to take over and run three major healthcare facilities in Karachi -- National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD), Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) and National Institute of Child Health (NICH) -- officials said on Thursday, writes M. Waqar Bhatti.

“I have called Dr Zafarullah Mirza, newly-appointed special assistant to PM for national health services, regulations and coordination, and requested him to clarify the federal government’s stance on these public sector hospitals in Karachi. Due to the ambiguity in the situation, hundreds of thousands of patients could suffer in the weeks and months ahead,” said Dr Azra Pechuho, Sindh health minister, while talking to The News on Thursday.

She said she had once again requested the federal government to let the Sindh government continue running these facilities in the interest of the people of Sindh and other parts of Pakistan, but she added that if the Centre wanted to run them, it should take them over as early as possible.

Through a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had handed over the control of the three major public hospitals – NICVD, JPMC and NICH -- back to the federal government and given 90 days to both the governments for smooth transition. The deadline ended by the mid of April, but the federal health authorities have made no attempts yet to take over the administrations of these healthcare facilities.

The Sindh government has reportedly filed a review petition in the Supreme Court, seeking the reversal of the court’s decision and permission for it to run the hospitals, arguing that they had added services to the facilities and they were running them better than the federal government.

Dr Azra said that immediately after the appointment of Dr Zafarullah Mirza as special assistant to PM on health, she called him and congratulated him on assuming the portfolio and requested him to take up the matter of the NICVD, the JPMC and the NICH with the prime minister and the federal cabinet so that the ambiguity could end in this regard.

“Nobody knows who would provide the funds for the last quarter of this financial year to run these hospitals. If federal government has to run them, they should take over them. Otherwise, they should let us know so that we continue running them like we have been doing for the past several years.”

According to the Sindh health department, it provides Rs8.8 billion alone to run the NICVD and dozens of its satellite centres spread all over the province as well as nine chest pain units (CPUs) that are functioning in different parts of the city.

Similarly, several billion rupees are being provided to the JPMC and the National Institute of Child Health as recurring budget while the provincial government has also initiated several new projects with public-private partnerships at these hospitals to provide latest health facilities and improve health services.

The provincial health minister said they had a feeling that the federal government was reluctant to take over the hospitals after learning about their expenses, which was evident from the fact that they had assumed control of the National Museum in Karachi where no finances were required.

To a query, she said they had requested the finance department to release the funds for the last quarter of the current fiscal year so that service delivery was not affected at the hospitals and patients could be served without any problem. She said that ing incase these hospitals were taken over by the Centre, they would return this money to the Sindh government.

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