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September 27, 2020

Consequences of dysfunctional health regulator: No checks and balances for hospitals, health professionals in Islamabad

National

September 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad Healthcare Regulatory Authority (IHRA), created more than two years ago, is still dysfunctional resulting in the absence of any checks and balances for the federal capital’s public and private health facilities and professionals.

“We are waiting for funds from the federal government to make the IHRA functional,” IHRA Board Chairman Dr Syed Fazle Hadi told The News, when contacted.

In the last two days of the previous financial year, he said the IHRA was provided seed money of around Rs90 million. “We could hurriedly spend only a part of it but had to return the remainder as the funds lapsed due to the close of the fiscal year.”

Dr Hadi said the IHRA had rented a floor of the Pakistan Red Crescent building and purchased some vehicles. “In the current ongoing financial year, the IHRA has not been provided any funds whatsoever.”

He said the IHRA advertised posts and received nearly 800 applicants for different positions. These are being scrutinized, and the short-listed aspirants will be interviewed by the IHRA board.

“We are just 10 percent functional, and hope to be working to our capacity only after we get the requisite funds,” Dr Hadi said. “We have asked for a good amount of funds and expect to get some Rs120 million. We will then be able to employ about 60 people.”

The IHRA board head said that the issue of funds has been brought to the notice of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, who, he said, has asked the finance ministry to provide the money.

Dr Hadi said a number of technical committees would be constituted for the inspection of hospitals, ordinary clinics, dental facilities etc.

As per the law, the IHRA is mandated to monitor, check and register the working and functioning of thousands of private clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, laboratories, public sector medical facilities and health professionals. It will receive complaints from the general public and take action against them.

The law enacted in May 2018 to establish the IHRA on the pattern of similar provincial forums, provided that the federal body would be established within one month. The act armed it with sweeping powers and functions.

The IHRA has been given powers and functions to maintain a register of all healthcare establishments, set standards for registration and licensing of healthcare establishments, register all healthcare establishments, health professionals and equipment, and issue licence for defining the scope and extent of healthcare services to be provided by healthcare establishments.

The regulator has been empowered to enforce minimum standards of safety for patients, healthcare professionals and other staff in a healthcare establishment; regulate healthcare establishments in accordance with standards and notified practices; prepare and issue notified practices as a guiding document for service provision in healthcare establishments; inquire and investigate into violation of any of the provisions of this law by any healthcare facility.

The law says no healthcare establishment will render any healthcare service unless it is registered with the registration board. No such establishment will give any healthcare services for which it is not licensed.

No healthcare professional will provide healthcare services in a healthcare establishment unless he or she has a prior registration. A healthcare professional will get himself registered with the IHRA for rendering services in a healthcare establishment and no healthcare professional will render services in a field in which he is not registered.

The IHRA has the powers to investigate the complaints relating to healthcare establishments, healthcare professionals, healthcare services and medical negligence. It will define the kinds of complaints, categories of different kinds of medical negligence and mal-administration, malpractice and failure in provision of healthcare services. The recognized and known complications of a medical or surgical treatment will not be considered medical negligence.

The regulator will develop and put in place various policies and measures to ensure elimination of quackery; prepare and issue regulations, guidelines, instructions and directives to ensure implementation of this law and notified practices; and collaborate with international and national institutions, organizations and companies to secure their assistance, cooperation and support for improvement of healthcare establishments for provision of healthcare services.