Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Another health project ‘falls prey to PML-Q tag’

LAHORE: Another health scheme – the Fatima Jinnah Institute of Dental Sciences – which was launched by the PML-Q government in 2005, has fallen prey to ‘politics’ as the PML-N government has ‘almost shelved’ it.

Over eight-year delay in the completion of this mega project has not only left an overwhelming impact on the health of the millions of patients but also forced the dental students to get education in makeshift arrangement putting their academic and training career at stake.

It was the fifth patient-friendly project which was initiated many years before Metro Bus Scheme and was awaiting funds for completion.

Earlier, four vital projects had met the same fate due to ‘apathy’ of the Punjab government. The schemes included construction of the Punjab Institute of Neurosurgery at a cost of Rs5 billion at Lahore General Hospital, a surgical tower worth Rs2 billion at Mayo Hospital, upgradation of radiology/specialties departments at a cost of Rs1 billion at Services Hospital and the Rs1.2 billion burn centre at Jinnah Hospital, Lahore.

The inordinate delay in the completion of these projects was causing an increase in patients’ sufferings, besides a huge financial blow to the national exchequer.

Initially approved at a cost of Rs2.78 billion in 2007, the Fatima Jinnah Institute of Dental Sciences scheme was divided into seven packages.

Package 1: a teaching college including admin block, postgraduate training and research centre and school for dental auxiliaries, teaching hospital.

Package 2: girls and boys hostels for a total accommodation of 480 students and doctors including mess building, cafeteria, mosque, auditorium having a capacity of 672 seats.

Package 3: separate apartments for all the lower cadre employees and officials of the institute from BPS-1 to BPS-20.

Other packages included provision of heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, vertical shaft elevators, and external electrification.

Govt is yet to release funds for completion of FJ dental institute package-I

However, the most disturbing fact of the project was that the government was yet to release funds for completion of the first package. An official note in the health department document exposed the authorities concerned categorically stating, “Due to financial constraints and changes in the management of the Project Management Unit (PMU), which was responsible for execution of the scheme, only Package-1 of the scheme has gone into construction to date.”

Citing government’s lack of interest towards the delay in executing the mega scheme, the document said, “It is clear from some facts that approximately three consecutive fiscal budgets have also elapsed after the administrative approval of the subject project”.

The issue also exposed incompetence of the health department top officials who largely acted as government’s ‘loyal employee’ instead of ‘public servant’ as over nine health secretaries remained associated with this project but they played no role to materialise it.

The secretaries included Dr Ijaz Munir (March 2014 - August 2014), Hassan Iqbal (June 2013 - January 2014), Arif Nadeem (January 2012 - June 2013), Mohammad Jehanzeb Khan (April 2011 - January 2012), Fawad Hasan Fawad (Feb 2010 - April 2011), Anwar Ahmad Khan (November 2007 - February 2010), Raees Abbas Zaidi (February 2007 - November 2007) Muhammad Javed Malik (October 2005 - February 2007) and Mrs. Rashida Malik (July 2005 - October 2005).

At present Jawad Rafique Malik is enjoying the same post since September 2014, but he seems to be least interested in in completing the project.

The official document itself speaks of government’s dismal response to materialise this much-awaited scheme. A special note in the document had declared the scheme ‘first-ever exceptional health project of its kind in dental health care facilities compatible with international standards.’
A copy of the document is available with Dawn.

According to the PC-I, the proposed Fatima Jinnah Institute of Dental Sciences was to be constructed on a 100 kanal land at Jubilee Town housing colony, Lahore. Since the Punjab Dental Hospital was the only public sector health facility all over the province, the construction of a state-of-art dental hospital and college had become unavoidable, it said.

The document says then Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi took personal interest and directed the PDWP to execute the project through the PMU. Mr Elahi laid the foundation stone of the project on July 31, 2005.

Highlighting significance of the scheme, the PC-I stated the Punjab Dental Hospital, Lahore, was established in 1928 while de-’Montmorency College of Dentistry in 1934, on the premises of the hospital. Since then it was the only government institute which was catering to the needs of dental patients.

It said the college was located adjacent to OPD of Lady Willington Hospital on eight kanals and presently about 500 students, including 60 dental technologists, are studying at the same institute.
“This situation has compelled the administration of the institute to conduct academic classes at Fort Road Lahore,” the document said.

As a matter of fact, the college of dentistry is being run in makeshift arrangement due to shortage of space at its existing premises.

“Therefore, due to the above-stated reasons coupled with the tremendous increase in population during the last 70 years, there was a dire need to establish a new dental institute and a hospital along with allied facilities,” it said.

The major facilities proposed in the institute included a teaching college and hospital for 480 students with yearly intake of 120 seats, experimental and clinical based postgraduate research centre for advancement in different disciplines of dental sciences for 50 persons, and school of dental auxiliaries for training of dental technologist, dental hygienist and dental nurses.

For this purpose initially the site area allocated for the institute was 80-kanal land, however during the stone-laying ceremony in July 2005, the then chief minister had set aside another 20 kanals adjacent to the site, for the construction of staff apartments.

The original PC-1 was approved at a total cost of Rs2.78 billion by the PDWP in the meeting held on July 3, 2007 and communicated to all concerned vide order No. SO (DEV-1)17-1/2005(P-1) dated Aug 11, 2007 by the finance department.

The building work of the academic block were let-out in March 2008 and was awarded to M/s Uni-build for a bid amount of Rs438.1 million.

However, due to delay in release of funds, some factors had rendered the approved cost incompatible/unworkable putting serious implication on the overall cost of the academic block. The factors included increase in the prices of building materials and labour inputs, abnormal increase in the prices of fuel and surge in the cost of heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) System and mechanical shaft elevators (lifts) due to rise in foreign currency exchange rates.

“Due to extended completion period of the project and three-time revision in the government pay scales during the last three fiscal years, the cost estimate for PMU has increased,” the PC-I said.

The Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) has also changed its policy and the tariff for electric load increased substantially.

The load requirement for the HVAC System has been enhanced due to the current power crisis in the country and has increased to “prime rated 1500kVA” to cater to the 1000kW HVAC load demand.

According to the recently revised PC-I, the capital cost required to make the academic block functional, the grid shearing cost, consultancy charges, contingencies, and mega project allowance reached Rs783.5 million.

“Now we are submitting herewith the revised PC-1 pertaining to the academic block (Group-1) amounting to an estimated cost of Rs932.08 million for approval from the competent authority, including Rs783 million capital cost and Rs148 revenue cost,” an official said.

Despite repeated attempts, neither the secretary nor the chief planning officer of health department responded to calls and text messages.

Published in Dawn March 4th , 2015