Patients all over Punjab are facing difficulties due to the absence of senior doctors in public hospitals. Taking advantage of the lax attitude of the health department, doctors appointed to senior administrative positions in hospitals and medical colleges of the province are minting money through private practice during hours allotted for public service, despite most of them also receiving a non-practice allowance from the government.
Some years ago, no doctor appointed to an administrative post was allowed by the health department to have a private practice during government work hours, according to a senior doctor of medicine, and were required to stay at their post from 8 am to 2 pm, although some doctors disregarded the rule.
At the moment, a large number of doctors appointed to public health administration positions are running their own private practice in the evenings, and possibly also during government work hours, including Sheikh Zayd Chairman Farid Ahmed Khan, King Edward Medical University Vice Chancellor Faisal Masood, Mayo Hospital Chief Executive Asad Aslam Khan, Fatima Jinnah Medical College Vice Chancellor Fakhar Imam, Allama Iqbal Medical College Principal Mehmood Shaukat, Amerruddin Medical College Principal Ghais Nabi Tayyab, Gujranwala Medical College Principal Aftab Mohsin, Sialkot Medical College Principal Ghulam Farid, Mayo Hospital Medical Superintendent Tahir Khalil, Syed Mitha Hospital Medical Superintendent Masood Sheikh, Lady Willingdon Hospital Medical Superintendent Khwaja Mehboob, and others.
According to sources, Lahore’s senior doctors remain absent during the hours of their duty and are known to operate on private patients around noon, using government provided cars to get to the private hospitals. The government was looking into a policy of having the doctors have their private practice at government hospitals after 2 pm, with half of the pay going to the doctors, and half to the government, but was found to be unacceptable to the doctors.
According to a spokesperson of the Punjab Healthcare Commission, a policy is being devised according to which doctors found to be spending usual government duty hours in private hospitals will be reprimanded. Doctors are also being asked to conduct their private practice at public hospitals, but the matter has not been finalised yet.
A patient from Kasur died recently in Jinnah Hospital after she was referred from multiple hospitals to Jinnah Hospital. Arriving in the 55-bed ward accommodating 100 patients, there was no bed available for her, and the only place for her to lie down was on the ground, where she died suffering from heart and kidney complications.
Following the incident, the chief minister of the province formed a committee to investigate the matter, and the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council has started their own investigation. Three senior doctors were suspended as a result of the committee report, and an emergency meeting held by the health department sought to identify shortcomings in the public healthcare system.
Public hospitals are expected to improve as a result.