off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Principal’s office also
deserve due respect


Most often it is the senior most professor in the medical college who is appointed as Principal hence it is essential that this office must also get due respect like all other coveted positions and the same holds true in the case of Vice Chancellors of medical universities. However, once appointed on merit, these distinguished medical personalities must not be expected to serve as protocol officers of visiting government functionaries and politicians.

With the Covid Pandemic followed by Dengue Fever the public healthcare facilities are quite frequently visited by the Deputy Secretary, Secretary in the health department and even Health Ministers not to forget other members of bureaucracy and politicians to see the facilities being provided to the patients. Most of this is to earn publicity and keep themselves in the limelight but they should not expect the Principal of the medical college or Vice Chancellor to receive them and take them on round and brief them about the current state of affairs. These are the jobs and responsibilities of the Medical Superintendent or Deputy Medical Superintend of the respective hospitals and other administrative staff. Hence, do not try to degrade them by expecting them to give protocol to these visiting dignitaries. Let the Principal and Vice Chancellors concentrate on academics which remains their first and foremost duty and responsibility.

However, what happens is that in some cases these coveted posts are kept vacant and people are given acting charge for reasons which are not difficult to understand. The bureaucracy keeps on waiting for the highest bidders or uses it to oblige the politicians and those in power corridors. It in fact reflects incompetence and inefficiency of the provincial governments in general and provincial health departments in particular. Once they know that someone is going to retire, the process of their replacements should be initiated at least six months in advance. If they have to be given extension, it should also be decided well in advance. Those working on adhoc basis are usually not in a position to take important decisions which results in deterioration of teaching, training programmes and patient care as well.

If one recalls a few instances from the past, the PA to the Chief Secretary of Punjab at that time rang up to inform Prof. Ijaz Ahsan Principal of King Edward Medical College that the son in law of the Chief Secretary is going to make a presentation at the KEMCNA symposium after two days at Mayo Hospital auditorium, the chief secretary with his four other family members would be coming to the meeting, hence five seats in the front row should be reserved for them and he be given proper protocol. Prof. Ijaz Ahsan could not tolerate all this, he rang up the Secretary Health to lodge his protest and said he was going on leave on that day, hence he may depute anyone else for the protocol duty. Late Prof. Iftikhar Ahmad speaking at the KEMC Convocation in 1980s during his tenure where General Ziaul Haque President of Pakistan was the chief guest had also highlighted the helplessness of the Principals who belong to the Cream of the society but they are ruled by the Lassi Group referring to the bureaucrats.

However, it won’t be fair to condemn the institution of bureaucracy as a whole. There have been and still are many conscious, kind hearted, competent and intelligent officials who give due respect to members of the medical profession. I remember once the post of Professor of ENT became vacant at king Edward Medical College. The then Punjab Health Secretary Mr. Pervez Masood a thorough gentleman contacted the senior most professor ENT Prof.Riaz Ahsan Siddiqui asking if he was interested to move to KEMC. When he replied in positive, he said but you have not applied for it? At this Prof.Riaz Ahsan Siddiqui said that this is my right being the senior most professor of ENT and as per rules, regulations and practice, I deserve to be transferred to KEMC hence why I should apply. The government should issue my orders. Mr. Pervez Masood obliged and transferred him and posted him at King Edward Medical College. Mr. Anwar Zahid was yet another gentleman who played his role in the reinstatement of Prof. Eice Mohammad when charges framed against him for which he was dismissed proved wrong. Both of them have served as Chief Secretaries of Punjab. Mr. Fawad Hassan Fawad and Mr. Tariq Haroon who served as Punjab Health Secretary for some time and many others can be mentioned who are exceptions. Those were the good old days and we had bureaucrats who took decisions on merit followed rules and regulations.

Hence, great care needs to be taken to ensure that in the first place the posts of Principals of medical and dental colleges and Vice Chancellors of medical universities are filled by appointing people on merit through transparent manner and then they should be given due respect and recognition by all concerned. The practice of keeping these coveted posts vacant or appointing people on adhoc basis should be done away with.

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