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September 15, 2019

PIMS Cardiac Centre staff unpaid for 3 months


September 15, 2019

Islamabad : Recruited around 14 years ago by the federal capital’s only government facility that offers a wide range of the latest heart care, employees of the Cardiac Centre of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences have been feeling the crunch of financial stress for three months due to the nonpayment of salary.

Ironically, they all, including one cardiac surgeon, one interventional cardiologist, three medical officers, one perfusionist and two operating theatre nurses, are temporaries, who have little hope for service regularisation in the near future.

Their employment contracts had expired in June this year suspending the payment of salary.

Uncertain about their future, the Cardiac Centre regretted that the successive governments didn’t heed the court orders and strong recommendations of PIMS and parliamentary bodies for their service regularisation.

Earlier, too, in July 2018 to be exact, the payment of salary to them came to a halt due to the expiry of contract agreements. It resumed in April 2018 only after the then Supreme Court chief justice, Saqib Nisar, stepped in on the complaints of patients.

The 120-bedded facility carries out around 50 coronary bypass surgeries every week and 15-20 angiographies and angioplasties daily. This is in addition to a higher number of diagnostic procedures for cardiac diseases, including exercise tolerance testing, echocardiography and cardiac scans.

Conceived in early 2003, the Rs1.26 billion Cardiac Centre was approved by the government in 2013, while its construction began in 2005 and took 10 long years to complete after missing deadlines after deadlines.

Its employees were hired on a contractual basis in 2005 until the project was successfully executed but when the centre was in place in 2015, the hospital asked them to continue working without salary payment until their services were regularised. Some left but most of them stayed up hoping for early regular appointments. However, the hope turned out to be false as the relevant authorities kept extending their contract terms instead of offering them permanent jobs for one reason or the other.

A Cardiac Centre doctor told ‘The News’ that a BPS-20 professor got his services regularised in 2013 but the similar case of other staff members was rejected by the relevant authorities, a move, which was not only discriminatory but it violated Article 25 of the Constitution, which declares that all citizens are equal before the law and they’re are entitled to equal protection of the law.

He said there were several Supreme Court rulings for the regularisation of those working in government organisations on the contractual basis for more than three years but the Cardiac Centre employees were denied that despite 14 years service.

The doctor said he had learned that all temps would be asked to pass a Federal Public Service Commission test for service regularisation and if that information was true, then he and his colleagues won’t do so like new graduates after serving in the centre for 10-12 years.

He claimed that an executive order by the prime minister could regularise their employment.

A technician resented the denial of permanent job and salary despite the court orders and strong recommendations of the hospital and parliamentary bodies and said the money crunch had caused mental stress to her and family. She said the nonpayment of tuition fee had led to her minor child’s expulsion from school.

“Our case should be placed before the special committee formed by the federal government lately to examine the service regularisation matters,” he said.

A senior official of the PIMS administration told ‘The News’ that the hospital had written many times to the CADD and health ministry for regularising the services of Cardiac Centre employees but to no avail. He claimed that the hiring of those temps was made through a competitive process comprising advertising of posts and test and interview by the notified departmental selection board.

The official said the Cardiac Centre staff members were hired on a contractual basis and were trained for a year to perform surgeries and interventional procedures, so huge investment was made in them in terms of time and money.

“The layoff or something like that will cause an irreparable loss to the careers of these skilled and trained human resources as well as patient care at the hospital,” he said.

The official also feared that the continued denial of a permanent job to senior cardiologists would deal a blow to the training programmes supervised by them. He claimed that no replacement was available at the hospital for those qualified and trained temporaries.

When contacted, Dr Allah Bakhsh Malik, the secretary of the national health services ministry, which oversees PIMS, said a summary had been put up to the prime minister’s office for a one-year extension in the contracts of Cardiac Centre employees and its approval was likely to come in few days.

He hastened to add that the regularisation of those temps through the Federal Public Service Commission was in the works.