LAHORE - Coming hard on the Punjab government for going ahead with the plan of outsourcing health facilities in 10 districts in the first phase and later replicating the model across the province, medics’ bodies have termed the move an attempt to hide inefficiency and failure of the bureaucracy by creating a sense of insecurity among the healthcare providers and the patients.

With the aim to improve service delivery and health indicators, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has approved the plan of outsourcing the health facilities in 10 districts to external parties from November 1, 2015.

After outsourcing of health facilities, the government will continue allocating funds for medicines, salaries, make transfers and postings of doctors and staff. Infrastructure and equipment will remain property of the government. Health managers claimed the exercise was aimed at achieving the optimum functioning of health facilities without burdening the poor who would continue to receive free treatment and medicines. They believe that the move will fix the chronic issues like absenteeism of doctors and other staff, pilferage of medicines and rampant corruption.

The medics’ bodies, however, believed that the move would prove last nail in the coffin of already depleted health facilities where both the healthcare providers and the patients would be on the mercy of contractor mafias.

The Punjab government will outsource health facilities to local and international social sector NGOs, local private health providers. The ten districts will be selected on the basis of terrible primary health services with good secondary healthcare or vice versa.

The service providing agencies will just take over the management and have their say in recommending transfers and postings of doctors and ancillary staff in the health facilities.

As per the Health Department, functioning of BHUs, RHCs, THQs and DHQs was unsatisfactory despite a huge spending. Therefore, it desired the external parties to improve the functioning to optimum level by posting of doctors and staff and ensuring their presence, supply of medicines, implement administrative, hygienic and clinical protocols.

Pakistan Medical Association President Dr Ashraf Nizami said that the government was trying to evade basic responsibility of providing healthcare facilities to the masses. “Provision of healthcare facilities is the responsibility of the state. The decision is reflecting failure of both the political government and the health managers. It should first accept its failure and tell the people about factors that led to this drastic decision,” he said, adding that the government was putting the doctors and the patients on the mercy of contractor mafias.

“The initiative is a conspiracy against the poor people of Punjab. This not acceptable and the PMA will resist at every level,” he held. Even after accepting the failures of Punjab Rural Support Programme, he said, the government was again planning to award its near and dear ones through contractual system. He said that bureaucracy has failed to deliver and now it was time to give leading role to health professionals instead of doing any adventure like outsourcing the health facilities.

Young Doctors Association spokesman Dr Amer Bandesha said that leaving the poor patients and healthcare providers on the mercy of NGOs and contractors was not a wise move. “There is a difference between the state and contractors. Healthcare providers will feel insecurity under the management of private parties. The decision will be a poison for the health facilities,” he said.