LAHORE                    -            The Punjab Assembly on Wednesday passed the Punjab Medical Teaching Institutions (Reforms) Bill 2019, rejecting all cut motions moved by the Opposition. Maintaining quorum during the sitting chaired by Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi, the treasury managed to get the Punjab Agricultural Marketing Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill 2019 passed amid sloganeering and rumpus from the opposition.

The opposition legislators warned that the controversial legislation would cause the healthcare providers to come out on roads. They accused the law was aimed at privatizing the hospitals to benefit blue eyed and depriving the poor of free treatment. They asked why government was bringing a system which had already failed in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa.

PML-N’s Kh Salman Rafiq, Dr Mazhar Iqbal, Waris Kallu, Khalil Tahir Sindhu and others protested against the law minister Raja Basharat’s statement that standing committee had already approved the draft bill unanimously. They said during the standing committee meetings, the opposition members put down dissenting notes on every clause and warned the government of violent fallout but it was strange that Law Minister was misleading the House on the issue.

Kh Salman Rafiq said the higher judiciary ordered the government negotiate with the stakeholders for building consensus. But the government was adamant not to entertain the demands of doctors and paramedics, he said. He recalled that this law badly deteriorated the healthcare system in KP where no new hospital was built but the services of existing hospitals were badly destroyed. 

Waris Kallu said the MTI bill was against the fundamental rights and the article 9 of the constitution of Pakistan that guarantees the protection of life and means of livelihood, employment for every citizen. He said the previous governments constituted boards of governors in government hospitals, but given choice to the doctors and paramedics for opting to other jobs, but this legislation had given no choice to them.

Law minister said if the health services of government hospitals under previous government were good as claimed by the opposition members then why the PML-N could not built a single hospital where its president Nawaz Sharif could have had the medical treatment.

As the chair allowed presenting the Punjab Agricultural Marketing Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill 2019, the opposition legislators gathered in front of speaker’s podium, yelling that the draft was not even sent to the relevant standing committee. The chair allowed passage of bill and then adjourned the session till Thursday (today) at 3 pm.

Earlier, Fateha was offered for the departed soul of Wing Commander Nauman Akran who embraced martyrdom due to plane crash in federal territory. The House also offered Fateha for the departed souls of father of MPA Yasir Sindhu, and aunt of MPA Momina Waheed.

Meanwhile, Grand Health Alliance (GHA), a representative body of doctors, nurses and allied health staff, has termed the Act ‘black law’ and vowed to resist its implementation. GHA Chairman Dr Haseeb announced to approach the court and use all available options for stopping the plan of ‘privatization’ of hospitals.

As per the much hyped law, Provincial Policy Board comprising up to seven members will oversee and supervise the functioning of MTIs. The members will not be government officers, and will be selected on the recommendation of Search and Nomination Committee for three years’ each. Chairperson will be elected.

The board will ensure minimum service delivery standard, keep and maintain e-record of medical services, updated e-inventories, audit of medical and other records and recommend policies for improvement of MTIs. It will meet thrice in a year in addition to an annual meeting.

The Board of Governors (BoGs) will control and supervise the functioning of MTIs. The BoG, assisted by Secretary of the Board, will comprise up to seven members. The Management Committee will comprise of Hospital Director, Medical Director, Nursing Director, Finance Director and two persons nominated by the board on the recommendation of the dean. The MTI being a constituent college is subject to a Universities Act, the Vice Chancellor of the University will head the Management Committee with the Dean acting as the deputy-head.

Under the MTI, doctors and paramedical staff will be appointed on double the salary package, and doctors will be allowed to conduct private practices in the hospitals.

However, the doctors practicing outside the hospital will have to forego professional medical allowances from salary package. Initially, there will be a choice for healthcare professionals from the two types of service structures - the one with better pay, and the previous one under existing rules.