PESHAWAR To provide indigenous professional medical education opportunities and to counter restricted access to such services, the FATA Secretariat has put an implementation strategy to establish the state-of-the-art FATA Institute of Medical Sciences (FIMS) at a total cost of US$ 62m. The mega initiative comprises a medical college and allied training institutes which would produce a trained and competent pool of doctors and paramedics to meet the present and future needs of the healthcare facilities located all over FATA. Around 60 percent of the placements created for women medical officers and health specialists are still lying vacant in different health facilities in the tribal region, said Dr Fawad Khan, Director General Health Services, FATA. He said such restrictions could mostly be attributed to factors such as dearth of locally trained staff due to which FATA Health Directorate has to depend on posting out reluctant staff from the settled areas. The establishment of FIMS would ensure operations of the already established health facilities at full strength, which were presently semi-functional due to non-availability of qualified professionals, he further added. According to Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) carried out by the FATA Secretariat in association with the Federal Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF, there has been an acute shortage of doctors in general and specialists/lady doctors in particular. Under the directives of the Federal Government, the Higher Education Commission was tasked to facilitate the establishment of the medical institution across a two phase process. Despite the finalization of its planning as per the project timelines, progress on the implementation phase was stalled due to unrest in certain areas of FATA. However, with the recent improvement in the overall situation, in the context of prevalent law and order, a vista of opportunity has opened up to finally carry out its establishment which has been one of the long-standing demands of the aspiring medical students and quality healthcare seekers hailing from FATA. Pointing to stark inequalities between the healthcare systems at place in tribal and settled areas, the Government of Pakistan called for an urgent need to redesign and reform the healthcare structure in FATA to bring it at par with the rest of the country. The consequential plan of setting up a fully functional and equipped medical institute envisages grooming the present and upcoming human resource to cater to the needs of patients requiring specialized medical treatment in these far-flung areas. With its successful completion, FIMS would be able to build an exclusive resource base for FATA health structure with a focus on improvement in staff retention, continued skill development, up-gradation of existing knowledge and encouraging female students to continue professional education in the local environment.