LAHORE - Building and making 39 state-of-the-art hospitals functional within 18 months is an uphill task if not impossible.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has recently announced establishing of 39 state-of-the-art hospitals within record time period of 18 months, initiating debate that whether the project can be completed before next general elections or not.

Federal government will spend Rs110 billion on the construction of these hospitals under Prime Minister's Initiative to Improve Healthcare Infrastructure across the country. As many as three hospitals of 600 beds will be constructed in Islamabad, 10 of 500 beds and 20 of 250 beds in other provinces and 4-5 health facilities of 100 beds in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. People relating to construction business opined that it was an election project which was difficult to complete before the next general polls.

Architects believe that at least 12-15 months are needed to carry out the task from site identification to completion of civil work of a normal size hospital.

“How the other tasks like import and installation of equipment, posting of doctors and allied health professionals and staff training will be carried out within 3-6 months are question marks,” said an architect who wanted not to be named.

Adviser to Chief Minister on Health Kh Salman Rafiq, however, differed with viewpoint of architects, saying the project was quite doable within 18 months as import of equipment and staff training would be started simultaneously along with civil work.

“Installation of equipment will be started soon after the completion of civil work. Political will, availability of funds and overseeing the work by a committee comprising highly qualified and trained professionals will help completing the project within stipulated time period,” he said.

Architects say that suitable site identification, preparation and approval of PC-I, drawing and design, pre-qualification of contractors, allocation of funds and awarding contract are pre-requisite for starting construction of a hospital.

“At least 6-7 months are needed to fulfill these requirements. In any case basic requirement could not be bypassed as per the rules. Similarly, 6-9 months are needed to complete civil work, depending on size of the building. As such little time will left for importing and installing equipment, appointment of healthcare providers and training of staff. It is really difficult for the government, if not impossible, to carry out this gigantic task in such a short period,” said another architect seeking anonymity. 

Kh Salman Rafiq dispelled the impression of too little time for such a gigantic task, saying the project could be executed within 18 months through better management and close monitoring by committee comprising professionals.

“Funds have already been allocated. Civil work, procurement of equipment and staff training will be started simultaneously. By the time the civil work is completed, the process of installation of equipment will be started. Trained staff will assume responsibility soon after installation of equipment. One and half year period is enough to complete the project,” he said.

“We have already completed the homework. We have identified suitable sites for hospitals in various cities,” he said.

Though unaware about the exact number of hospitals for the province, Kh Salman Rafiq said that Punjab would get due share from PM’s Initiative to Improve Healthcare Infrastructure.

“I can’t give the exact number at this stage. We will get the details in next meeting. Hopefully, we will get due share from the federation,” he said.