DESPITE firm assurance given by Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmad to the protesting employees of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) that their grievances would be resolved within three days, nothing has happened and the lingering crisis is taking its heavy toll both in terms of provision of medical facilities to the general public and plans for improvement of the services at the capital’s premier medical facility. Latest reports indicated that the continued strikes and shutdown of administrative services has forced donors to suspend their aid for expansion and up-gradation of medical services while PSDP projects worth 14 billion rupees would not be processed during the year due to virtual breakdown of working of the institute.
Talking to a delegation of protestors, the Minister had committed to playing his role in bringing amendments to the Medical Teaching Institution (MTI) Ordinance, restoring their civil servant status. However, his silence on the issue since then is strengthening the impression that PIMS has become an issue of ego for the Government and as a result an institution with potential to provide best possible medical care to people has been left at the mercy of circumstances. There is no denying the fact that the standard and quality of services at the Institute has come down alarmingly over the years but the solution devised for improvement has become controversial. In November, President Dr Arif Alvi promulgated the MTI Ordinance under which the hospital would be run through a Board of Governors (BoG). Grand Health Alliance of the employees maintains they have no objection to MTI but just want an assurance that they would not be deprived of the right to pension, gratuity, health facilities, promotion, housing and other services and post-retirement benefits. This is nothing extraordinary as the employees were entitled to all these perks and privileges before promulgation of MTI Ordinance. The government should accept these legitimate demands of the protestors and at the same time ensure continuation of improvement and upgradation plans besides assigning responsibility to the management to restore glory of PIMS within a given timeframe.