KARACHI, Sept 23: While the situation in Karachi demands the immediate establishment of state-of-the-art emergency treatment facilities, a much-needed trauma and accident and emergency centre at the Civil Hospital Karachi has not yet been completed thanks to the Sindh government’s non-allocation of funds for the project in the current financial year, it emerged on Sunday.
Senior government officials said that the agreed flow of money for the trauma centre project had not been included in the annual development programme of the Sindh budget for 2012-13 and now the provincial health department would have to review its 59 new projects planned to be carried out in the current financial year so that it could divert around Rs500 million for the project.
A visit to the project site revealed that if funds were not released immediately the ongoing construction work, which has been moving at a slow pace for the last about six months, would come to a complete halt in the next couple of weeks.
“We had planned to make operational four floors and basement of the project for operation theatres and intensive care units and emergency and casualty services by February 2013 but now everything is upset,” said an employee of the project.
The interruptions in funding from time to time not only delayed the completion and commencement of the trauma centre project approved during the era of then prime minister Shaukat Aziz, but also increased its estimated cost from Rs2.22 billion to Rs4.88 billion.
A senior CHK official said the doubling of the cost was owing to the escalation in construction cost and prices of equipment and other fixtures involving payments in foreign currency also and the addition of two more floors and provision for constructing a helipad, said a senior official at the CHK.
The details and the proposed expenditures of the accident emergency and auxiliary services complex, now named after the late Benazir Bhutto, were approved by the executive committee of the national economic council (Ecnec) in 2006 and the federal and provincial governments were required to bear the cost of the project in equal measures.
Considering the project a slow-moving scheme, the federal government did not give it any funds in 2008-09, blaming the prevailing economic crisis for the delay.
Sources said that in 2009 Ecnec also approved the proposed revised expenditures of around Rs2.3 billion for the project for a second time, while reducing the total number of floors to basement and 11 floors. However, the project plan had been revised once again for building a basement and 13-floor health complex covering an area of about 425,000 square feet.
Then PM Yousuf Raza Gilani had laid the foundation stone of the trauma-cum-emergency and casualty centre in January 2009 and health minister Dr Sagheer Ahmad had launched the civil works in September 2009.
Funds transferred from the federal government for the project amounted to around Rs362 million till the year of devolution of the health sector to the provinces. The provincial government, which is now solely responsible for the funding of the project, had been able to release Rs1.2 billion. The work had to be slowed down as the Sindh government delayed the release of fund under the 2011-12 allocations till June 2012.
“We were expecting another allocation of at least about Rs2 billion under the current fiscal ADP, but recently we were told that there was no allocation for the trauma centres in the latest ADP expenditures,” said an official in the planning and development section of the Sindh health department.
“Against a revised capital and revenue expenditure of Rs4.88 billion, the project had been able to get only Rs1.5 billion so far, and as such, I personally feel that even making the project partially operational by the end of the ongoing fiscal year would be a daunting task,” said project director Hayat Kamal.
The CHK administration and the Sindh health department were said to be struggling for the release of the amount missing from the ADP and expecting some special funding from the chief minister to save the project from becoming costlier.
“Had the project been taken up on a fast-track basis, it would have saved a significant amount of time and money of both government,” said another source privy to the project.
The project was aimed at providing treatment facilities to about 110,000 emergency patients every year, while about 2,500 patients would be offered surgical intensive care and about 2,000 patients would be extended medical intensive care facilities annually.
Doctors said the need for a standard emergency handling of patients was increasing in the city particularly in view of rising cases of accidents, disasters and terror attacks.
The existing emergency set-up in the CHK was also not in a position to bear any increased and sudden influx of emergency patients, they said and maintained that all the departments dealing with acute emergencies would be housed in the new complex leading to a better and coordinated attention and services from professionals of various medical disciplines.
Confirming the exclusion of the trauma centre project from the current Sindh ADP and the delay in the availability of funds to the CHK, health department’s additional secretary (development) Kiran Nauman said that the Sindh planning and development and finance departments had been approached and it was likely that the CHK’s project would get about Rs800 million soon.