Privatisation of healthcare: MHU employees without salaries for three months


By Ali Ousat
LAHORE: About 250 employees of six Mobile Health Units (MHUs) being run in underdeveloped districts of the province haven’t received their salaries for the last three months.

The government inaugurated these MHUs in 2010 to cater to the healthcare needs of deserving people in far-flung areas of the province. Later, they were handed over to a private firm called Medi Urge.

“The employees of these units have not received salaries since November 2017 while the officials of these health units are playing a role of spectator,” said a doctor on the condition of anonymity. He works at Rajanpur mobile health unit.The doctor said that a Lahore-based private company ‘Medi Urge’ was hired to run these health units despite the fact that they were incapable of operating them. “The health department seems helpless in getting these centres back from the company.”

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in its elections manifesto 2013 claimed that at least 1,000 mobile health units will be launched to provide basic health facilities in remote areas and isolated localities.

These mobile health units were locally manufactured to reduce cost and create employment opportunities in the province.

However, despite a lapse of seven years and the government’s tall claims of the programme’s success, not a single mobile health unit has been added to the programme, he said. “Is this really an effective programme.”

Another senior official working with the MHU programme on the condition of anonymity told The Express Tribune that the initiative to launch mobile health units was a good decision and these mobile health units were providing good healthcare facilities despite being outsourced.

He further said that now it seemed that the provincial government’s move to outsource these health facilities to private firms proved counterproductive. He demanded that the company’s audit report of 2017 should be made public and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should carry out accountability of the company.

Medi Urge Head of Programme Colonel (retd) Muhammad Akram confirmed that the employees at mobile health units have not been paid for the last two months. He assured that the salaries would be dispersed within the two days as the health department has already approved the amount.

“It is not a big issue because it rarely happens,” he said. He added that the company was working in its full capacity and providing facilities to deserving people of the province. “These units are functional since 2010 and we had monetary issues for the first time.”

According to the health department, each mobile health unit has 35 staff members, including helpers, drivers, para-medical staff and laboratory technicians. These units are working in Rajanpur, Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Muzzafargarh, Mianwali and Dera Ghazi Khan. They are equipped with state-of-the-art machinery, including X-ray, ultrasound machine, ECG machines, a laboratory for common blood and urine tests, labour room, facility of vaccination for children and a small operation theatre.

Courtesy The Express Tribune