KARACHI: Six state of the art Free Mobile Hospital Vans, an initiative of the government aimed at providing healthcare facilities through these vehicles, lay idle in a park located near Bilal Masjid in Clifton. While the Sindh government claims to have declared health and education emergencies in the province, the pragmatic implementation of the initiatives bear a question mark. According to the residents of the area, some officials dumped these six vans in the park in March and have not bothered to check on them since.
The vans, bearing huge portraits of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, are rusting with each passing days and no one is willing to share information about it. On one side of the vans were inscribed slogans such as ‘Sindh Sanwariyo, Sindh Sudhariyo [Let’s come to develop Sindh]’ and ‘Shaheed Raani jo khwab, dar dar muft ailaj [Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s dream, free treatment at every other doorstep]’.
Wajid Ahmed, who runs a superstore in Block 2, Clifton, said that he was one of those who spotted these vans in the wee hours of Friday about seven months ago. “When I came out of my home, I saw these new vans standing in this park,” he said, adding that after a few weeks when no one came to check these vans, he informed the police station concerned, but all in vain. “Later, we informed our area MPA Khurrum Sher Zaman,” he said.When contacted, Pakistan Tehreek-e-insaf lawmaker Zaman told that he has personally visited these vans but no one is willing to share why they have dumped these state of the art vans.
“We are taxpayers and these vans have been purchased from public money. But instead of utilising them, they have been dumped here,” he said, referring to the then chief minister and health minister’s 2015-2016 budget speech, in which the two had announced that they would provide door-to-door health facilities to the people through such mobile van service by deputing highly qualified doctors and trained paramedics. “After purchasing the vans, they must have hired the doctors and paramedics who seem to be drawing their salaries while sitting at home as other employees in the Sindh government do,” he said, adding that he will take up this matter in the upcoming assembly session by moving an adjournment on this issue.
A similar situation was witnessed in Tharparkar three years ago where some free mobile hospital vans were found lying idle from a farmhouse of a PPP politician and elected representative. Meanwhile, two vans were in the personal use of the politician at the farmhouse. The then chief minister, Qaim Ali Shah, ordered an inquiry into the matter, but all in vain.
Last week, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, while presiding over a meeting of the health department, had reiterated that priority is being given to health and directed the relevant officials to revamp the department. “The government is spending around Rs33 billion on non-salary expenditures of health department,” said the chief minister. “Therefore, we expect health services, accordingly.”
The CM also directed the health department to establish a command and control centre at their conference hall on the sixth floor of New Sindh Secretariat to monitor health services.
Shah was informed that the Sindh government has 1,791 health facilities, including rural health centres, basic health centres, Maternal Child Health Centres, clinics, dispensaries, yoonani shifa khan and homeopathic dispensaries.
Despite many attempts to obtain an official version about these vans, the health minister, Dr Sikandar Mandhro and health secretary Usman Chachar did not attend the phone.Meanwhile, PPP MPA Dr Sohrab Sarki, who heads the standing committee of health department in Sindh Assembly, was not aware about this issue and he also avoided giving any official reaction to it. “Since I have no idea about it, I cannot comment on it,” he said.