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September 19, 2019

Staff threatens to close PIMS against reforms legislation


September 19, 2019

Islamabad : As the federal cabinet sets the ball rolling for the transformation of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences into a medical teaching institution by consenting to a proposed law, employees of the government hospital feel cheated by the national health services ministry’s top boss and warn that they will resist the move tooth and nail to protect own and patients’ interests.

Dr Asfandyar Khan, a spokesperson for the All Employees PIMS Restorations Movement, told ‘The News’ that staff members of the hospital, the largest government one in the capital city, were ‘betrayed’ by special assistant to the premier on health services Dr Zafar Mirza.

“Dr Mirza had promised not to go ahead with the so-called hospital reforms plans without getting the concurrence of all stakeholders, including us, but he didn’t keep his word and put up the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Islamabad, Reforms Act, 2019, to the cabinet for consent without consultation. As he’s cheated us, we’ll go to any lengths to block the passage of this cruel piece of legislation by parliament to prevent the hospital’s privatisation,” he said.

Dr Asfandyar said the proposed law would not only deprive visitors, mostly poor people from all over the country, of free diagnostic and therapeutic care but it would turn the hospital into a corporate organisation and strip employees of the status of civil servants as well.

He said the ministry had made a similar bid four years ago but that fell through.

“There’s a complete consensus among PIMS employees that the proposed MTI law threatens their employment as well as patient care. If the government doesn’t address our grievances without delay, we all (staff members) will close the entire hospital by halting its operation to protect own future as well as the interests of poor patients, who make 90 per cent of the visitors” he said.

The employees’ representative said the government could improve patient care at the hospital by filling vacancies, increasing the number of beds, installing the required modern machinery, and regularising the services of temporary doctors.

“If there’re problems at PIMS, the government is to blame and not the staff. These problems will go away if the government provides the hospital with the necessary manpower and facilities,” he said.

Under the PIMS Reforms Act, 2019, which will take effect after parliament’s mandatory approval, the hospital will become a medical teaching institution as a ‘body corporate having perpetual succession and a common seal with power to acquire hold and dispose of movable and immovable property and may in its name sue and be sued’.

A board of governors will administer and manage the MTI’s affairs and will have the overall superintendence and control over its functions and all related matters.

Ironically, no serving civil servant or government officer will be part of the board, which comprises members from the private sector nominated by the health ministry for an extendable period of three years. The members can be experts of legal, finance and economics, management and medical profession, retired civil servants, educationists, social workers, representatives of civil society, businessman, and philanthropists.

The board will appoint deans, hospital director, medical director, nursing director, and finance director to the PIMS and can delegate its power of recruitment to any appointee.

The dean of the medical college will act as the PIMS chief executive officer, and the governance structure will consist of chairpersons and medical faculties of various departments in addition to deans and directors.

The management committee headed by the medical college dean and consisting of deans of all other colleges, hospital director, medical director, nursing director, finance director and two other persons appointed by the board of governors on the recommendation of the college dean, can recommend the employee appointment or termination to the board.

The board will appoint a full-time hospital director for a period of five years to oversee all non-clinical functions of the hospital and a full-time medical director for five years to manage all clinical functions of the hospital. All clinical department heads will report to the medical director.

Under the proposed law, all civil servants of PIMS may avail themselves of a one-time irrevocable option within a period to be notified by the ministry to become the PIMS employees. Those doing so will be subject to terms and conditions of employment as prescribed by the board of governors including but not limited to their service structure, promotion, and disciplinary matters.

However, a civil servant not availing that option will remain a civil servant under the Civil Servants At, 1973, and will be entitled to all privileges and facilities of the federal government and will be dealt with under the Civil Servants Act 1973 for future promotion and posting. A civil servant at the request of the board of governors may be sent on deputation to the PIMS.

A civil servant opting to serve PIMS will cease to be a civil servant from the date of his or her absorption in the PIMS service and his or her seniority, pension and other matters vis-à-vis employment with PIMS will be determined in the manner prescribed by the board of governors.

All employees, except dean, hospital director, medical director, nursing director, and finance director, will have the right to appeal against any penalty, censure or termination of employment to the board of governors unless such penalty, censure or termination is carried out on the orders of the board.

The ministry will establish a board of arbitration for employees and its decisions will be final in all respects. Ironically, all PIMS employment disputes pending with the courts of law will be deemed transferred with an immediate effect for adjudication to the board of arbitration.