The uproar cause by the Punjab Medical Teaching Institutions (MTI) Ordinance has led to the representatives of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) government — including the Prime Minister — to come out and defend the state’s position. Their biggest argument, that this ordinance does not mean a privatisation of hospitals, does nothing to address why this law will really lead to improving healthcare services, as promised by the ruling party.

The fundamental difference in the new law will be the appointment of a new board of governors for each hospital, composed of members from the private sector. In theory this is an excellent move, having directors and board members looking after specific aspects of the hospital allows for greater scrutiny on service delivery. However, in its bid to improve hospitals, the government is relying too much on the private sector. The assumption in the Cabinet of the private sector being less corrupt than the public is entirely flawed. Nepotism, favouritism, bribery and other social ills plague the private sector just as badly as bureaucratic circles, which is why the government’s assumption about fixing hospitals through this ordinance is not only flawed, but also naive.

For the government to be so convinced that this is the best step forward in empowering teaching hospitals and improve the services provided to the public, they must have demonstrable evidence vindicating their stance at the very least. Considering that the new law is modelled on a similar one implemented by the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, all the ruling party really has to do is use the improvements (if any) seen in KP due to the new law and put the minds of the medical community and the opposition at ease. However, voting on the law in KP also led to an opposition walkout, which is strange; very rarely do bills and ordinances find such unanimous opposition across all quarters.

At the very least, given the sheer number of associations and political representatives voicing their disagreement with the law, it is now the government’s responsibility to prove that this law really is the best way to improve services at state-run hospitals. It is still somewhat unclear that merely hiring board members from the private sector will achieve this. The PTI government has taken a bold stance and is sticking to its guns. A democratic government would now ensure that the public understands that this decision truly is for the improvement of the health sector, and in turn, the lives of the citizens.