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TB control programme head selected against merit

LAHORE: The Punjab government has appointed Dr Amir Nazir, awaiting posting, as the new programme director/manager of the provincial TB Control Programme allegedly in violation of the laid-down criteria.

The Primary & Secondary Health Care Department issued a notification of Dr Nazir’s appointment to run the programme meant for fighting tuberculosis, reducing mortality, morbidity and the spread of TB infection.

The slot had fallen vacant on Dec 31 after Dr Zarafshan Tahir was transferred and posted as Dean, Institute of Public Health (on an additional charge basis).

Under the mega programme, 2.23 million people were examined in 2017 at all the centres established at all the teaching hospitals, district and tehsil headquarters hospitals of the province. They underwent an elaborated diagnostic procedure under the programme and 223,000 of them tested TB positive.

According to the job description and the PC1 eligibility criteria, a candidate must have MBBS qualification and 10-year experience at managerial position in the TB Progrmme.

An official source said Dr Amer Nazir had just served for two years in the Punjab TB Programme and was transferred over some performance issues in Feb 2017.

The official regretted that instead of hiring an eligible officer, Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid managed Dr Nazir’s posting as the programme head. “Dr Yasmin recommended his name for the slot ignoring many other officers serving there with required qualification and experience. Primarily, they include additional director Dr Mohammad Asif, additional secretary of vertical programmes Dr Sadain, Dr Mohammad Yunis etc.”

The official document carrying laid-down criteria for the position offers Rs500,000 per month salary package for the selected candidate having MBBS with post-graduation in public health and 10-year experience in TB Control Programme.

“The programme manager/director overseas coordination and administration of all aspects of ongoing programmes including planning organization, staffing, leading and controlling entire programme activities in Punjab”, reads the document regarding his/her responsibilities.

It further stated that the director of the TB Programme shall be responsible for coordination with the international donors, partners, corporate sectors and health organizations for technical and financial resource generation.

The programme is also running 126 one-window TB rooms having all necessary facilities under one roof, including diagnostic process, examination of patients and dispensation of medicines.

A state-of-the-art lab of international standards was also established during the tenure of former director of the TB Programme.

The Punjab government was providing approximately Rs 350 million funds to the programme every year besides international funding.

Talking to Dawn, Primary & Secondary Health Secretary Zahid Akhtar Khan expressed his ignorance about the laid-down criteria defined in the PC1 for the appointment of the TB Control Programme Director.

However, he said since he believed in merit, the health department would review the decision of making the appointment of Dr Amir Nazir.

For this, he said, he would personally look into the matter in coming days to make sure appointment of head of the programme was in accordance with the defined criteria.

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