LAHORE -  The Punjab government is going to outsource management of selected public sector hospitals to a Turkish Health Organisation on the desire Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Severe mismanagement complaints about public sector hospitals, continued strikes of medical officers and paramedical staff necessitated outsourcing of the managements, official sources said. The outsourcing will also help the department get rid of corrupt officials in the administration, they added.

They said a lot of decisions were taken in the meeting about the social sector primarily about health care in the province.  A special vacancy of the additional chief secretary of social sector was also created to execute the plan, the sources said.

The CM also directed that the ACS S&GAD, one of the top officers in the provincial hierarchy, is to be posted as ACS Social Sectors, BP-21 officer, with immediate effect. This will be the third ACS in Punjab for the first time in the provincial history.

There is another ACS Energy post, duly created to accelerate work on energy issues.  Interestingly, at present the top energy slot is being run on additional charge basis. The Chairman planning and Development (P&D) board, the most important slot in the development sector, was entrusted with the additional charge.

It is also learnt that the ACS Shumail Ahmad Khwaja visited Turkey a couple of days ago to study their health care system. The ACS also presented his recommendation to the higher authorities.

In the same meeting the CM Punjab directed the Chief Secretary for ensuring all necessary arrangements for signing MOU/agreement for aforementioned action plan with the Turkish counterparts immediately.  “It does tie our hands. We are trying to figure out how to balance the public outcry to provide the best health care services with a reduction in disturbance and wastage of money” said an official.

Young Doctors Association (YDA) members requesting secrecy said the outsourcing plan without consulting the medical community would affect the medical treatment system. They were planning to handover these facilities to private companies since 2015. “Such a scheme was also started in the KP province but it proved to be a futile exercise there” they held.

They said the decision was taken after Punjab government recently succeeded failing the YDA protest on the Mall Road when public at large criticized the doctors’ strike at public sector hospitals. They said that the media too did not highlight YDA protest as they did in the past. They said that the doctors could again take to the streets if government stuck to the stance of outsourcing public sector medical facilities. 

 “This development has shocked the medical community and other employees of the government hospitals,” he said. A top official of the Primary and Secondary Health department confirmed the decision of outsourcing the management of government hospitals after they received hundreds of complaints about mismanagement. “In order to improve healthcare service delivery, the government has decided to hand over the management of the hospitals to private parties,” he told.

The officer said the hospitals will not be privatized rather outsourced only adding outsourcing of the management of Indus Hospital Bedian Road Lahore that resulted in improved service prompted the provincial government to outsource hospitals in cities other than Lahore as well.

 “The new management will involve in administrative issues” the officer said. He said that the enforcement of biometric attendance, inventory management of medicines, cleanliness, proper disposal of waste and smooth functioning and maintenance of machines will be the responsibility of the new administration. The outsourcing was not privatisation of government hospitals and the public entities, doctors and machines will remain government’s property, the officer added.  The Secretary Health could not be reached for comments.