Pakistan moves to revamp health sector

May 19th, 2008 - 10:50 am ICT by admin  

Islamabad, May 19 (IANS) Pakistan’s new Health Minister Sherry Rahman has initiated steps to revamp the ailing sector by removing inept bureaucrats and launching probes against corrupt officials, warning that no one would be spared. “As part of reforms and corrective measures to put things in the ministry of health in order, (Rahman) has initiated necessary measures,” The News reported Monday.

“The ministry of health failed to deliver during the previous government,” it quoted an official as saying.

“Reports about surfacing of polio cases in Sindh, irregularities in drug registration and embezzlements in the purchase of vaccines and other items are some of the indicators that the previous government either ignored the important sector of health or irregularities took place in connivance with the concerned officials,” the official added.

After taking additional charge as health minister, Rahman has put in place a reforms agenda and has ordered inquiries against officials notorious for being corrupt.

For instance, Rahman has ordered the return of Drug Controller Farnaz Malik to the National Institute of Health (NIH) from where she was appointed to the lucrative post.

“Another official, Abdus Sattar Sohrani, the deputy drug controller, who has previously been considered to be untouchable due to his connections, is facing an inquiry on the orders of the minister,” the newspaper quoted a source as saying.

“A number of complaints about his alleged highhandedness have been received by the minister from pharmaceutical companies, particularly the small investors,” the source added.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers alleged that Sohrani had pushed the investors not willing to grease his palms to such a limit that they were thinking of quitting the business, The News said.

“On the other hand, the manufacturers who arranged for Sohrani’s foreign trips were given a free hand to sell substandard medicines. Sohrani has gone on leave without waiting for the official approval in this regard,” it added.

Rahman has also taken note of reports that purchases made for different healthcare programmes like polio and hepatitis were faulty and some officials of the ministry made underhand deals with contractors.

When contacted, Rahman said: “Nobody will be allowed to play with the lives of the people. Any person, no matter how powerful he or she may be, will not be spared if found guilty of corrupt practices or irregularities.”

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