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Wednesday December 08, 2021

Termination of two senior LRH faculty members opens Pandora’s box

June 17, 2021
Termination of two senior LRH faculty members opens Pandora’s box

PESHAWAR: The Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) has terminated paediatrician Dr Musa Kaleem, associate professor of paediatric department, from service for gross misconduct and conduct unbecoming of a senior faculty member.

Last year Dr Mahfooz Hussain, assistant professor of ophthalmology department of the hospital, was also terminated from service for gross misconduct. According to the LRH administration, it was on June 23, 2020 when a contract janitor was allegedly caught red-handed marking RFID attendance of Dr Musa Kaleem at 7:30am when the paediatrician was not present in the hospital.

Dr Musa Kaleem was then served with an explanation but his reply was termed unsatisfactory and was placed under suspension on June 29. The hospital administration referred his case to an inquiry committee.

A number of proceedings of the inquiry committee took place which Dr Musa Kaleem personally attended. The committee finalised its report in December 2020 and Dr Musa Kaleem was served with the final show-cause notice. In January 2021, Dr Musa Kaleem obtained a stay order from the Peshawar High Court (PHC) to stop the administration from taking any disciplinary action against him.

The stay was vacated by the Peshawar High Court on May 18 this year and thereafter he was issued with a termination letter on May 25. Dr Musa Kaleem was an influential member of a large group of doctors, which opposed the health reforms of the Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaf (PTI) government in 2015.

The doctors in 2015 held several protests and suspended heath servers for months. It seems the government and particularly Dr Nausherwan Burki, architect of the health reforms in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s public hospitals, was anxiously waiting for an opportunity to settle old score with Dr Musa Kaleem and his fellow colleagues for giving him tough time during initial days of his entry in KP.

Another story is related to ophthalmologist Dr Mahfooz Hussain. The National Programme for Prevention of Blindness in collaboration with BVI, an Australian NGO, arranged to send personal protection equipment (PPEs) to 20 hospitals in Pakistan in May 2020. These were to be received by heads of departments of ophthalmology of the respective hospitals.

The donations for LRH were somehow delivered at the residence of Dr Mahfooz Hussain on May 16, 2020. He was working as assistant professor of ophthalmology department at LRH. “Instead of handing them over to the head of the department or the hospital administration, he started distributing the PPEs himself and, in fact, texted a picture of these PPEs on WhatsApp with these comments "Had to buy PPEs for my department and surgical department as almost no PPEs by the hospital (LRH),” an official of the hospital told The News about reasons behind his suspension.

According to him, when the LRH administration came to know about it, Dr Mahfooz Hussain was ordered to immediately bring the PPEs to the hospital. After repeated letters to him, the official said, the ophthalmologist finally brought some boxes of the PPEs to LRH on June 4. When counted, these were significantly less than those supplied by the donor.

Dr Mahfooz Hussain was served an explanation letter, but his reply was found unsatisfactory. He was placed under suspension on June 11 and an inquiry committee constituted to look into the matter.

The committee finalized its report in September 2020 and the final show-cause notice was served. Dr Mahfooz Hussain was terminated from service on September 15, 2020.

Dr Musa Kaleem was suspended for 11 months and Dr Mahfooz Hussain for three months. However, during suspension, the LRH administration regularly paid them salaries, though they didn’t serve patients as required by the suspension law.

When reached for comments, an official of the hospital argued that LRH followed law in paying salaries to the two faculty members, although they were not performing duties during their period of suspension.

When contacted, Dr Musa Kaleem denied all charges against him. “It was a pre-planned move of Dr Nausherwan Burki and his team to implicate me in any case and get rid of me as I used to raise voice for the doctors and challenge his wrong policies,” he maintained.

“Dr Nausherwan Burki has destroyed the entire health set-up in KP. It was Dr Burki who treated the doctors as his slaves prompting all the senior faculty members to leave LRH. Now LRH is left at the mercy of junior doctors. He has caused irreversible damage,” Dr Musa Kaleem alleged. He said the inquiry committee procedure was wrong and junior people were included in it.

“An earlier inquiry had termed the issue minor and suggested a warning to me (Dr Musa Kaleem). However, they changed the terms of references of the inquiry committee and asked it to go ahead,” he said.

Dr Musa Kaleem said he had raised objections on partiality of some of the committee members but the LRH administration never heard him.

“Those claiming to have seized my attendance card never appeared in the inquiry committee which was my demand. The cards of two casualty medical officers were also stated to have been caught and they too were terminated but reinstated later,” he claimed.

He said he had challenged it in court. “When I came to know about this incident, I immediately went there for attendance through thumb impression and got its pictures. My promotion to the post of professor was due in 2018. I was constantly denied promotion by Dr Nausherwan Burki as he thought I had opposed his agenda,” Dr Musa Kaleem explained. He said he was chairman of the paediatric department but since he was not in the good books of Dr Burki, he was illegally removed from the position.

Dr Mahfooz Hussain also rejected the allegations against him. “Why would I take PPEs to my home when I had personally purchased a huge amount of stuff for staff of my department in the early four months of the corona pandemic. The doctor from Lahore had sent those PPEs at my home address as they were meant for the ophthalmology department and wanted me to distribute them among staff of my department,” he said.

Dr Mahfooz Hussain said the LRH administration suspended his services and then terminated him without any solid reasons. “I challenged it in court but the LRH administration intentionally avoided submitting their reply for six months. He said now when an appellate tribunal has been formed to hear cases of the Medical Teaching Institutions, he had approached the tribunal to seek justice. “My hearing is on June 22 in the tribunal and let's see what happens,” he added.