A whodunit for the courts
Within less than a year, Punjab faces another health disaster after dengue. The free medicines distributed by Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) have taken a toll of over a hundred heart patients. When administrative failures assume tragic proportions and the government is found incapable of performing its duty, courts are forced to take notice of the matter. Had the Punjab government immediately set up a competent enquiry committee to identify who was really responsible for the disaster and punished the culprits in accordance with law, the SC would have been spared the valuable time it needs to deal with other urgent matters.
For days, the provincial government did not take the issue seriously despite media reports of deaths from the reaction of suspected drugs. As the chief minister who has set a record of holding 18 portfolios also heads the health ministry, the media was bound to put him on the mat. The CM blamed the federal government while some of the federal ministers held Shahbaz Sharif responsible. Instead of holding an enquiry to determine which one of the players was responsible and to what extent, orders were passed to arrest directors of a number of medicine companies and a prominent doctor at PIC. This led the Young Doctors’ Association to issue a call for strike which was withdrawn only after their demand that action should not be taken by government against doctors and officials of any institution unless found negligent after an investigation. The PPMA held a press conference calling upon the government and media to stop accusing the drug companies and wait for the laboratory tests.
The matter is now with the SC which has asked Punjab government to submit its report within a week. Meanwhile, a single judge tribunal set up at the request of the Punjab government by the CJ Lahore High Court has also been directed by the SC to complete the assignment. This gives one hope not only of a fair enquiry but also of suggestions to avoid a similar debacle in the future. Meanwhile, one expects the CM to realise that micromanagement and that too of so many ministries is simply bad administration which can only cause disasters.