Islamabad - Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Health Services (NHS) Dr. Faisal Sultan on Wednesday informed the Senate body on health that the number of pilgrims at the Iran border when novel coronavirus (COVID-19) emerged was beyond the capacity of the provincial government and the government learnt from the Taftan incident.

SAPM on NHS Dr. Faisal Sultan said this in a meeting of Senate Standing Committee on NHS held here. The meeting was chaired by Senator Khusbakht Shujaat.  The Committee discussed the agenda item question raised by Senator Mushtaq Ahmed regarding the number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the quarantine center established in Taftan for the returning pilgrims.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmed said that the quarantine center established in Taftan had some of the worst living arrangements; there was a single washroom for hundreds of pilgrims.  “The videos released were disturbing, the government had time and chance to make arrangements,” he remarked. 

Responding to the question Dr. Faisal Sultan said that provinces made their own arrangements and established quarantine centers, and in Taftan pilgrims were discharged from centers after taking their COVID-19 tests. He said “suddenly so many people reached there”.

Vacant posts at NHS ministry need to be filled

Dr. Faisal Sultan said that thousands of pilgrims were standing on Iran border and the provincial government did not have the capacity to take measures on that large a scale. He said that government learnt from that incident and is making further strategy while looking to close the loopholes. He also added that COVID-19 affected the entire world but Pakistan relatively remained in a better situation.

Senator Shafiq Tareen, discussing the vacant posts in attached departments of the ministry, said that individuals have been given multiple charges on additional basis while posts are staying vacant. He said that grade 18 officers are working on grade 20 posts and a number of irrelevant officials are appointed on several positions. “DG Health came from Punjab and has been working on the position for the last five years which is illegal,” he said. 

He also added that PIMS hospital head is a dentist and also has around four additional charges while as per rules a dentist cannot be appointed as the head of a teaching hospital as it is an administration cadre post.

He said that head of gynecology department in Federal Government Polyclinic Hospital could is also of administration cadre, while the NIRM hospital head allegedly has dubious academic credentials.  The Senator also asked the committee to seek the details of appointments in the Drugs Regulatory Authority in Pakistan (DRAP). 

Chairperson of the Committee Senator Khushbakht Shujaat said that the Ministry of NHS is an important department as lives of people are attached with it and the public could be facilitated from it. She said that the SAPM on NHS will likely participate in the meetings of the committee and implement its recommendations. The committee expressed its concerns on late delivery of the working paper and absence of the secretary from the meeting.