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November 19, 2019

Some hope for Peshawar Institute of Cardiology’s coming to fruition


November 19, 2019

PESHAWAR: The hitherto neglected Peshawar Institute of Cardiology (PIC) may again have some hope of coming to fruition.

People are wondering if KP’s new Chief Secretary Kazim Niaz might be persuaded to take interest in the PIC project. The PIC story has been told multiple times in this newspaper. The project was announced by the Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA) government in 2005 when its foundation-stone was laid. The coalition government of Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in 2008-2013 completely neglected the PIC project.

Health had figured prominently in election manifesto of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in KP, but in its five-year rule from 2013 to 2018 it failed to operationalize the PIC. Ninety percent of the civil works were already completed but the PTI government failed to provide any meaningful funds for the project to complete.

The PTI’s health minister was completely unaware of the project even after two years in office. Chief Minister Pervez Khattak didn’t call any meeting about the Rs5 billion PIC project during his five year rule.

Dr Nausherwan Burki, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s health czar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from 2013 became aware of the project in 2015. He showed some interest in PIC and brought it under the administrative control of the Board of Governors (BoG) of the Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar chaired by him.

Dr Hussain Ahmad Haroon was instigated by those with vested interest to challenge the BoG in the high court. The court ordered that a separate BoG be formed for the PIC. The decision was surprising because the BoGs for the hospitals in the province were formed under the MTI (Medical Teaching Institute) Act of 2015.

A reading of the Act makes it clear that a hospital is only designated as an MTI when it is a ‘teaching’ hospital. Applying the MTI Act to an under-construction project is strange at best. The decision to have the PIC as a ‘teaching’ hospital can only be made once it is made functional. The provincial caretaker government dissolved the then BoG for the PIC and formed a new one. The new PTI government promptly replaced it with yet another BoG in 2018. The present BoG for the PIC, formed in 2018 has miserably failed to take any significant step in completing the project.

The BoG chairman, Dr Abdul Bari lives in Karachi and has yet to show interest in the PIC. He has been contacted repeatedly regarding matters of PIC by this correspondent and others but seldom bothers to reply.

Dr. Bari is the CEO of Indus Hospital, Karachi which is striving to build a hospital in Peshawar. There are genuine concerns about other board members for PIC. Dr. Asif Loya is said to be close to Dr. Nausherwan Burki and works at the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, Lahore. Dr. Shafqat Hussain is a cardiac surgeon working at the Shifa Hospital in Islamabad. Dr. Hameed Afridi is a former CEO of Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar and has nothing remarkable to show for his time in office there. The present chief minister or health minister of the province has yet to show any enthusiasm for completing the only heart hospital of the province.

Dr. Burki and others had claimed that a sum of at least two billion rupees will be allocated for the PIC in the 2019 budget, but a paltry Rs140million was allocated instead. The only person besides Dr. Burki, who to date has taken some interest in PIC was the former chief secretary KP, Azam Khan. He was instrumental in allocating funds from hydel profits for the PIC. After his departure from the province, however, one does not know where those funds ended up. Some say the money was diverted to the BRT Peshawar.

The new Chief Secretary Kazim Niaz has the reputation of being an energetic, competent and well-meaning officer. The people are wondering if he will leverage the political government and make progress on PIC.

Dr. Burki’s initial vision for the PIC was to have it staffed with the best cardiologists and cardiac surgeons working in western countries. He had contacted quite a few of them and they had shown enthusiasm about coming back and working in Peshawar. Most have since become disillusioned with the progress on PIC.

This PIC has not been completed even after 15 years and it is time that someone takes ownership of the project. The chief secretary could earn the prayers of poor heart patients if he could get it completed.

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