Daily Times Editorial 6 September 2019

Privatisation of public hospitals

Doctors have expressed strong concern about the recent Punjab Medical Teaching Institutions (Reforms) Ordinance 2019, which effectively puts state-run hospitals under their respective boards of governors (BoGs), consisting of members of the public. Instead of getting the law passed from the assembly, the government promulgated the development through an ordinance. Doctors, paramedics and other staff, whose performance would come under the devolved mechanism, have vowed to oppose the law, drafted on the pattern of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s MTI Act, tooth and nail. The public may suffer as doctors will use their deadly ‘hartal (strike)’ weapon to coerce the government into accepting their demands. The MTI Ordinance brings government hospitals under the control of fully empowered BoGs which will have “… powers for the appointment of admin officials on key slots and appointment of senior faculty members. The post of principal shall be converted into dean who shall be appointed by the BoG for a period of five years”.
Besides BoGs, hospitals will have management committees, each consisting of a hospital director, medical director, nursing and finance directors and two members nominated by the BoG. The committee shall have powers to terminate any and all the employees of the institution in accordance with the rules and regulations framed under the ordinance. This is a contentious point. Doctors and other staff are averse to be assessed at the workplace. The ordinance abolishes their status as civil servants, throwing them off the ambit of the health department. This puts doctors and other staffers in a catch-22 situation. “The employees would be given a choice to continue to work for the institution in private capacity under the MTI Ordinance. In case, he/she wants to work as civil servant, his/her services will be sent to the disposal of the health department for further posting in any other state-run institution,” the ordinance says.
The ordinance will initially be implemented in 23 hospitals attached to the five government medical universities – King Edward Medical University, Fatima Jinnah Medical University, Faisalabad Medical University, Nishtar Medical University and Rawalpindi Medical University.
Doctors say the new arrangement will turn hospitals into money-making facilities. Well, yes and no. The new arrangements allow doctors to sit in hospitals as private consultants in the evenings. A doctor may not do justice to the patients visiting them in the morning, for that patient would be a source of money for them in the evening. It would affect service delivery in the mornings. The government’s plan to grant financial and management autonomy to public hospitals seems good as it will make bureaucratic red tape a thing of the past, but most of the time autonomy is turned into authoritarian rule by those at the helm. *

Making Kartarpur Corridor a reality


Despite hostilities stemming from India’s actions in held Kashmir, both India and Pakistan remain committed to making Kartarpur Corridor a reality. The third round of talks, on Wednesday, was positive though a few concerns still need to be ironed out. No doubt they would be addressed in subsequent exchanges. The corridor, set for opening in November, is 90 percent complete in Pakistan, while India is also sticking to the looming deadline. By all means, November will be the month of the launch, and 5,000 Sikhs will finally gain visa-free access to their sacred temple. A draft agreement for the operationalisation of the corridor will be signed once the issue of service charges is sorted out. Pakistan has put in a lot of investment to ensure smooth and easy access to Gurdwara Kartapur Sahib and it is justified in charging a nominal fee for the services it will have to render to an expected 5,000 visitors every day, and an additional 5,000 on special religious occasions like Baisakhi, and the birth anniversary of the founder Sikhism, Baba Guru Nanak. Moreover, Pakistan has turned down India’s request to allow consular officials to accompany the pilgrims. That would mar the spirit of religious connections. Both sides will have to show maturity and flexibility to sort out points still stalling the agreement.
Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Faisal, who headed the Pakistani delegation at the Attari talks, was upbeat about the signing of the draft. “We have shown a lot of flexibility. We are hopeful that if a little flexibility comes from India, the work will get done,” he said. The last meeting, held on July 14 at Wagah, saw promising developments on technical terms of the draft. The corridor initiative, much appreciated by peace-loving circles across the border and the Sikh communities in Pakistan, India and elsewhere, was proposed by Pakistan. Initially, the Indian side showed lukewarm response to the soft-border proposal, but later accepted it seeing the overwhelming demand from Sikhs across the world. Hopefully, the corridor will pass the coming test too. *

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