Qadir Patel’s appointment as health minister raises eyebrows

KARACHI: Expressing shock and dismay over Pakistan Peoples Party MNA Abdul Qadir Patel’s appointment as federal health minister, members of the medical fraternity said the least the government could have done was to select a candidate with a medical background.

The ministry of National Health Service is important for the PPP-led Sindh government since it has been at the loggerheads with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led federal government over many issues.

But Mr Patel’s appointments raised many eyebrows as people associated with medical fraternity wondered why the Sindh government put forward Mr Patel’s name when it had other options, even if the intention was to settle matters related to Karachi’s three tertiary care hospitals.

The PPP-led Sindh government has been engaged in a legal fight over the ownership of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), National Institute of Child Health (NICH), National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) since 2011 when several federal departments were devolved to provinces under the 18th Amendment. The matter is being pursued by hospital employees.

NHS ministry may help PPP govt in Sindh to deal with issues like control of three major hospitals, MDCAT, PMC

The provincial government wants to take the hospitals over as it claims that it has upgraded these facilities by investing billions of rupees.

A deadlock also persists between the Sindh government and the federal-run Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) over the minimum pass percentage in the Medical and Dental College Admission Test (MDCAT) held last year.

The provincial government reduced pass percentage from 65 per cent to 50pc after their negotiations with the commission failed. A recent court decision upholding the stance of the PMC has now jeopardised the future of some 800 students who are given admission on less than 65pc in Sindh.

‘Disturbing profile’

“The minister’s profile is disturbing and he has no connection whatsoever with this specialised field. The decision may further deteriorate the state of healthcare, particularly in Sindh,” said a senior doctor, unwilling to be quoted since he ran his clinic in Kaemari, a major PPP stronghold.

Patel’s profile had no match with that of ex-minister Dr Faisal Sultan who had an outstanding performance in his tenure especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Both Pakistan Muslim League-N and PPP are old political parties having several members who could have been better choices for the post,” said Dr Abdullah Muttaqi heading the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA).

“But, on the flip side, one would like to be optimistic and think that the coalition government makes the best use of the time given to them by tackling pressing issues,” he added.

“He can be easily misled if he has selected his team purely on political grounds. But, this situation can turn positive, if he develops a good team of stakeholders,” said Dr Qaiser Sajjad of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA).

Dr Sajjad said one major weakness in political appointments was that the appointee lacking sound knowledge of the field assigned to him was bound to rely on his advisers.

In both cases, he pointed out, it would definitely be tough for professionals to discuss health matters with the incoming minister. “I think a health minister should at least be a doctor so it’s easy for medical experts to communicate matters.”

“Notwithstanding who is holding the federal health ministry, PMA will raise its voice if merit is ignored in the PMC matter,” said Dr Sajjad.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2022

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