LAHORE   -   The fate of nine Tehsil Head Quarter (THQ) hospitals in Lahore and the basic health units (BHU) in 14 Punjab districts hangs in the balance as the Punjab government is indecisive about renewal of the contract signed with Punjab Health facilities Management Company (PHFMC) to provide basic health facilities to the people in rural areas and the Lahore city.  Sources confided to the The Nation told that due to government’s indecisiveness, the health facilities handed over to the PHFMC are facing multiple management issues besides shortage of emergency medicines, insufficient fuel supplies for ambulances and power backup. Patients are suffering due to inadequate emergency services and lack of medicines and equipment required for minor surgeries, they said.

PHFMC is a private limited company registered under section 42 of the Companies Ordinance 1984 and it operates through a CEO. It is one of the 56 companies constituted by former chief minister Shehbaz Sharif during his last tenure.

Nine THQ hospitals of Lahore were handed over to the PHFMC under a contract signed in June 2017. These health facilities include Govt Samanabad Hospital, Govt Ghaziabad Hospital, Govt Eye and General Hospital Swami Nagar, Govt Hospital Shahdara, Govt Gynae Hospital new Karol, Govt Gynae Hospital Chohan Road, Govt Hospital Pathi Ground, THQ Hospital Police line and Govt Hospital Sodiwal. Moreover, all the BHUs and dispensaries in 14 districts - previously run by the District Health Authorities of local governments - were given under the administrative control of the said company under a five-year contract which has expired on June 30, 2022. The 14 districts of Punjab that are in agreement with PHFMC include, Kasur, Lahore, Toba Tek Singh, Pakpattan, Vehari, Hafizabad, Rajanpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Sahiwal, Chakwal, Rahim Yar Khan, Mianwali, Lodharan and Faisalabad. A doctor working at one of the health facilities, on condition of anonymity, told this scribe that basic medical services are being run by the health management company. He said that shortage of staff including doctors was another issue. A doctor posted at one of the THQ’s in Lahore confided to The Nation that surgical procedures like Hernia operation, circumcision, cholecystectomy (gall bladder surgery), excision of lipoma and appendix operation were not being done due to lack of required medicines and equipment.

Sources also disclosed that a summary recommending termination of the contract with the PHFMC has been prepared by the health department but it is awaiting approval by the competent authority. A source in the health company told this scribe that they have been verbally asked to continue providing services for three months until the fate of the company is decided. “Due to this uncertainty, the tendering process of medicine and other essential equipment is being delayed. The PHFMC was provided with Rs6 billion in the last fiscal year to run the health facilities under its control,” he added. When contacted, PHFMC CEO Sajjad Ahmad Khan said that it was not correct that small hospitals of Lahore like Sodiwal, Pathi Ground, Chohan Road etc were facing any critical shortage of medicine and staff.  He, however, admitted that few items like surgical gloves, blood glucose strips and other items were short in supply at some places but their purchase order at local level has already been made.

and those will also be made available till tomorrow. The CEO said that THQ hospitals in Lahore were given to PHMFC as a special assignment apart from the health facilities in 14 districts.

When this scribe contacted, no official from the health department gave any comment in this regard. Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid maintained that there was no such shortage and suspension of services in any of the BHUs in 14 districts and THQs in Lahore.