October 31, 2019, marked a tragic day for Rahim Yar Khan. Sheikh Zayed Medical College (SZMC) Hospital received over 70 bodies, reduced to mere piles of ashes, bundled together and placed in the hospital's mortuary.
Families who had travelled long distances were undergoing DNA tests to identify their loved ones.
This scene captures a train fire incident from Karachi to Rawalpindi, near Liaquatpur, only 96 km from Rahim Yar Khan.
After the accident, an emergency was declared in two hospitals near the incident site: SZMC Hospital in Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital. Apart from the deceased, the fire survivors were engaged in a critical battle for survival.
There was a burn unit at the SZMC Hospital, but there were no modern facilities for surgery, so treatment was difficult.
Following the incident, the Punjab government announced the establishment of a state-of-the-art Hazrat Hameed Uddin Hakim Sheikh Zayed Surgical Complex at SZMC Hospital, featuring 450 beds. Additionally, seven billion rupees were allocated to establish surgical wards, an outpatient building, operation theatres, a trauma centre, and a modern radiology facility within this medical complex.
The civil works contract for the project was awarded to a private company, M/S RMS Private Limited. Meissers Metroplan Asian was appointed as the consultant, and the Infrastructure Development Authority Punjab was designated as the executing agency for the project.
The Rahim Yar Khan district, with a population exceeding 6 million, is in southern Punjab. Positioned strategically, it serves as a central point from which various cities in Sindh and Balochistan, such as Jacobabad, Dera Bugti, Sui, Mirpur, and Ghotki, are reachable within three to five hours.
As per Dr Rana Ilyas, the SZMC Hospital spokesperson, approximately seven to eight thousand patients from the three provinces seek medical care at the hospital daily, with some requiring admission.
The construction of the surgical complex commenced in October 2021 but was halted in June 2022 due to technical complications. However, construction resumed in July 2022.
The government disbursed 270 million rupees to the contractor in December 2021, followed by an additional 730 million in July 2022, totalling over one billion. However, despite these payments, construction has yet to recommence.
Principal SZMC Hospital, Professor Dr Muhammad Salim Laghari, states that the site for the surgical complex construction was handed over to a private contractor on October 13, 2021. Although the project's intended completion date was June 30, 2023, only eight per cent of the work has been finished.
The Infrastructure Development Authority Punjab (IDAP) is responsible for completing the project. The Punjab government has allocated three billion 40 crore rupees to IDAP, which accounts for half of the project's cost.
Moreover, he asserts that IDAP has disbursed one billion rupees to the contractor company based on his information.
He mentions sending written requests multiple times to the IDP and the Health Department for the prompt completion of the project, yet no satisfactory response has been received.
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The project's private contractor, M/S RMS Private Limited, faced blacklisting by the Punjab Procurement Regulatory Authority for two years, starting from February 20, 2023, due to document forgery and deceit.
Dr Laghari states that, based on the information available, the contractor is currently contesting the penalty in court.
Project Director IDAP, Muhammad Amir, has confirmed this information. Responding to Lok Sujag's query, he mentioned that the department hasn’t changed the contractor since the matter is under court consideration.
When asked about the Punjab government's release of three billion 40 crore rupees for the SZMC Surgical Tower and the organisation's disbursement of over one billion rupees to the contractor M/S RMS, he replied, "If you submit a written request, I will provide a written response."
Published on 17 Nov 2023