Four medical universities in Punjab without health minister

Lahore: Delay in allocation of health ministry portfolios by the PML-N government in Punjab has stalled the financial and administrative affairs of the state’s four public sector medical universities and their affiliated medical colleges and hospitals.

Universities facing difficulties include Fatima Jinnah Medical University in Lahore, Rawalpindi Medical University, Faisalabad Medical University and Nishtar Medical University in Multan.

A Health Minister, the ‘Pro-Chancellor’, as per the Medical Universities Act, is a key figure presiding over the meetings of the Syndicate to approve programmes. A syndicate is the most powerful platform for granting approval to run the administrative and financial affairs of the Public Medical Universities of Punjab.

An official with knowledge of the development told dawn That public hospitals affiliated with universities and colleges were awaiting approval for the purchase of equipment, drugs and the hiring of human resources, which required syndicate approval.

Similarly, the budget of the universities also requires the approval of the syndicate to run the financial and administrative affairs of the mega educational institutions.

In addition, he said, postgraduate programs and several diplomas also require the approval of syndicate meetings.

The absence of the Health Minister has affected the completion of the work of Mother-Child Hospital in Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and recruitment of staff from BS 17 to BS 19 in other educational institutions.

Under the Act, the official said, syndicate meetings of medical universities are to be presided over by the pro-chancellor.

Not a single syndicate meeting of any of the state’s public medical universities has been convened since the PML-N came to power last April. Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz nominated eight members for his cabinet, which was sworn in on May 31 and among them Khwaja Salman Rafiq is likely to be notified as the health minister.

These days he is looking after the matters related to health and medical education ‘informally’.

The source says that the importance of the Medical Universities Syndicate increased manifold when the Punjab Government abolished the Board of Management and transferred all the powers to the Syndicate.

The syndicate of a medical university consists of 11 to 14 members, including representatives of the judiciary, philanthropists, accountants and the MPA.

The syndicate of the Nishtar Medical University has been without three MPAs for the past year and a half, when he left the body and the government turned down the university’s persistent requests for his replacement.

Another problem of the university relates to the sanction of Rs 90 crore for finance and planning by the syndicate. Faisalabad Medical University also has similar problems, which requires approval of a personal ledger account amounting to Rs 500 million by a syndicate meeting.

Similarly, during the tenure of PML-N, no syndicate meeting was held at Fatima Jinnah Medical University and Rawalpindi Medical University.

Published in Dawn, June 23, 2022