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May 17, 2018

Finally, good news for heart patients in KP


May 17, 2018

PESHAWAR: Finally there is good news about the largely ignored health sector in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has lifted ban on recruitment for the long-delayed Peshawar Institute of Cardiology and Burns and Trauma Centre in the provincial capital.

The 300-bed Peshawar Institute of Cardiology (PIC) and the 120-bed Burns and Trauma Centre Peshawar, which would be completed by June 30 this year, would now get staff.The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had taken note of suffering of the cardiac patients in the province and written to the ECP chairman to exempt the two highly crucial projects from ban on recruitment so they could hire staff for the PIC and Burns and Trauma Centre.

Sources in the KP Health Department told The News that Chief Secretary Mohammad Azam Khan played a key role in getting adequate funds for the two projects and seeking assistance of Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar and ECP Chairman Justice (R) Sardar Mohammad Raza Khan in getting the ban lifted.

“We received a letter from the ECP allowing us to go ahead with the recruitment process. This is really a very good development for PIC and Burns and Trauma Centre,” an official of the Health Department said.

Pleading anonymity, he said the ball was now in the court of the Board of Governors of PIC and Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) to resume the interview process for hiring relevant staff.The ECP on April 11 had banned recruitment by the federal and provincial governments to ensure transparency in the forthcoming election.

It provoked strong criticism from all segments of the society as the ECP decision was termed irrelevant when even the date was not fixed for the election.The Islamabad High Court also set aside the ECP’s decision of banning recruitment in government departments till the polls.

The ban came at a time when BoG for the two autonomous institutes - PIC and Burns and Trauma Centres - advertised positions of faculty and even called the shortlisted candidates for interview.Some of the shortlisted candidates had reached Peshawar for the interview from overseas and others were lined up in the US, Canada and UK.

The cancellation of interviews was frustrating for the applicants who had come from abroad for the PIC interviews for which they weren’t entitled for travelling allowance.The BoG members were found in an awkward situation as they didn’t know how to contact the candidates who had already reached Peshawar for interview.

The shortlisted candidates were finally informed only one day before cancellation of the interview.Some of the BoG members for PIC wanted to continue the interview process as they had advertised the positions for quite a long time. They wanted to select the candidates but not issue them appointment letters.

However, a few other BoG members didn’t agree and wanted the board not to take any risk.Those in favour of the interview process had termed it unfair as date for the general election was not announced yet.

Since many powerful elements have been trying to delay the PIC project and wanted the caretaker government to handle the recruitment process so they could induct their blue-eyed people.

“Most of the influential people responsible for causing a huge loss to cardiology in KP were anxiously waiting for the court to remove Dr Nausherwan Burki from the scene so they can appoint their people without merit. Dr Nausherwan Burki, on the other hand, was planning to bring Pakistani doctors trained on modern equipment in the best cardiac centres in the developed world,” a senior consultant told The News in Peshawar.

The day the interviews were cancelled, the doctors in Peshawar celebrated it as a victory. They believed Dr Nausherwan Burki would have no role in the caretaker set up and they would get a free hand.

About 25 cardiologists and cardiac surgeons were shortlisted. Most of them were working in the best cardiac hospitals overseas.Much of the civil works has been completed and procurement orders for medical equipment have already placed and delivery is expected by June 15.

Both the institutions are first of their kind in KP. PIC has specialised cover for both cardiac and cardio-vascular super specialties and is to serve not only as a service provider but also the hub for training and research.

The Burns & Trauma Centre has 60 beds each for burns patients and reconstructive surgery and is unique this side of Attock. Both are managed by autonomous boards of governors under the Medical Teaching Institutions law.

After releasing funds and completion of civil works and procurement orders for equipment actualised, the government this year sanctioned 297 and 347 posts, respectively, for the operationalisation of these institutes inclusive of specialised human resource. The positoons have been advertised.

“The timely operationalisation of these hospitals is in extreme public interest and cannot be let to a later date in time as such patients now are being taken down country, adding to out of pocket expenditure,” the letter for this purpose said.

Many hurdles were created for Dr Burki to foil his plan to establish the cardiac centre.High-ranking government official said that besides some serving and retired doctors, the private hospitals in Peshawar also opposed PIC as they knew it would affect their business.

As per directive of the Peshawar High Court (PHC), the government has formed a separate Board of Governors (BoG), headed by Dr Nausherwan Burki.The story of the PIC is one of incompetence, neglect and wrongful priorities of successive governments in KP.

The foundation stone for the 300-bed cardiac hospital was laid more than

20 years ago by the then chief minister Akram Khan Durrani heading the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) government.

Akram Durrani used to take the credit for the hospital but he failed to make any progress on the project.The Awami National Party-Pakistan People’s Party coalition government and the one led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf also neglected the project. Funds were delayed for the project and some of the money meant for PIC was shifted to the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

In contrast, construction work was launched on the Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology in 2010 and the hospital started functioning in 2012. It is a centre of excellence, providing quality treatment to heart patients.

There is no dedicated centre for heart diseases in KP and Fata. In Punjab, there are four heart hospitals in Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad.LRH and HMC are only public sector hospitals having cardiac units but these are inadequate to cater to over 30 million population in KP.

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