The medical fraternity Thursday came in support of caretaker Health Minister Dr Saad Khalid Niaz, who cancelled a multibillion-rupee contract for procurement of four more robotic surgery systems, locking him in a serious rift with the caretaker Chief Minister Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar. On the other hand, the chief minister’s house raised serious questions about the performance of the minister and accused him of using deplorable language against the chief minister.

As the controversy spiralled, medical associations, as well as a large number of surgeons and physicians, expressed their support for Dr Saad, who suggested that instead of buying robotic surgery equipment worth Rs4.27 billion for the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC), Liaquat University Hospital, Jamshoro, and Gambat Institute of Medical Sciences (GIMS), the money should be spent on providing basic health facilities and prevention of diseases.

Dr. Akram Sultan, Director Health Services, Sindh, said all the medical associations, including PMA, PIMA, Young Doctors Association (YDA), Society of Surgeons Pakistan and others will hold a joint press conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Friday (today) to support Dr Saad Khalid Niaz and expose the mafia behind taking kick-backs in the procurement of expensive equipment, which was useless in countries like Pakistan.

Commenting on the ongoing row, the PMA supported Dr Saad’s stance and stressed the need for improving the primary healthcare system in the country instead of investing in high-cost machinery for tertiary care without an improvement in the former.

“As an organization that promotes healthcare advancement, the PMA acknowledges that tertiary care is important, but it believes that the government’s focus should be on the primary healthcare system,” PMA’s honorary Secretary General Dr. Abdul Ghafoor Shoro said.

“Strengthening the primary healthcare system will ensure that people receive timely and adequate medical attention without the need for expensive tertiary care. Primary healthcare system is the backbone of the health sector and caters for 70- 80% of healthcare in Pakistan. Unfortunately, it is weak, and we need to focus on improving it before investing in tertiary care,” he said in a statement.

Shoro maintained that Pakistan’s, especially in Sindh, primary healthcare system lacked basic facilities, and equipment, which forced people to seek treatment at the costly tertiary care centers.

“The PMA has recommended that the Sindh government invest in primary healthcare centers, rural clinics, and basic health units. Providing basic health facilities, such as diagnostic labs, clinics and trained medical staff, will help alleviate the burden on tertiary centers,” said the PMA.

“PMA is committed to working with the government to improve the healthcare system in Sindh. Our message is clear — let us focus on improving the primary healthcare before investing in expensive equipment.”

The PIMA also raised the same points and was found in agreement with the PMA.

The Society of Surgeons Pakistan, in a separate statement, supported Dr Saad.

Meanwhile, a statement issued by the CM House said the caretaker health minister had issued “irresponsible and baseless statements”, which needed to be clarified.

“Caretaker Sindh Chief Minister Justice Baqar visited different offices, schools, and health facilities with the objective of improving their performance,” it said.

“The CM, keeping in view the poor and pathetic condition of health facilities, decided to convene four meetings to review their performance as he reviewed the management of schools, colleges, and Revenue offices.”

Surprisingly, the statement said, the health minister had three review meetings concerning his department cancelled. Finally, when the fourth meeting was held, he did not attend it, so that his performance could not be evaluated.

“The health minister was trying to post his favourite secretary of health, so that he could carry forward his personal agenda,” said the CM House statement.

“The caretaker health minister Dr Niaz, instead of focusing on the performance of the health facilities, was wasting his time and energy to settle his personal scores with his counterpart [doctors/professors] and did not spare the prestigious SIUT from his criticism.”

The language Caretaker Health Minister Dr Saad Niaz has used against the Caretaker Chief Minister Justice (R) Maqbool Baqar is deplorable and reflects his mindset, it said. “A professional doctor, professor, civilised person, or a minister cannot use such derogatory language and it is beyond comprehension and shocking,” the statement said.

“The caretaker chief minister wants to improve the condition of health facilities, so that they can provide the best health care to the needy people of the province.

“As a matter of fact, the CM has always supported the ministers and their departments so that they can perform their best for the public. However, the caretaker chief minister issues necessary instructions from time to time for efficient performance of the departments,” added the statement.

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