PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Department introduced the biometric attendance at public sector hospitals and has faced stiff resistance in implementing it as the medical fraternity has refused to follow the recently launched biometric attendance system at the public sector hospitals of the province.
Installing the biometric attendance system at the public sector hospitals was one of the basic components of the reforms agenda that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had designed for overhauling the health sector and improving patient care.
The KPK Health Minister Shahram Khan Tarakai launched the biometric attendance system in the five public sector hospitals. He hoped it would help ensure attendance and punctuality of the doctors and other health workers in health institutions and improve overall health services.
The minister had stated that basic purpose of setting up the biometric system was to ensure the attendance and punctuality of the doctors, administrative staff and other employees of hospitals.
“This system will provide real time data about the attendance of employees via online dashboard, eliminate ghost employees, ensure transparency, improve capacity and productivity of institutions and departments,” he had said.
A few doctors had initially opposed the new attendance system but they started following it when majority members of their community accepted the GPS-based bio-metric attendance mechanism.
The government had intended to extend same service to other health institutions after it was launched in five major medical institutions, including Lady Reading Hospital (LRH), Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH), Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC), Ayub Teaching Hospital (ATH), Mardan Medical Complex (MMC), Khyber Girls Medical College (KGMC) and Institute of Kidney Diseases (IKD) in Peshawar.
However, members of different doctors’ associations are now publicly opposing the system and announced they would not follow it. Opposition to the biometric system began at the KP’s oldest and largest public sector hospital, LRH, where, according to senior faculty members, they were following the new attendance system and had even brought good results but some office-bearers of the Postgraduate Medical Institute Teaching Staff Association (PGMITSA) asked them not to follow it.
According to a senior faculty member, there were some minor issues associated with the new system but it could have been resolved through consultation with the Health Department. He said after the PGMI Teaching Staff Association (PGMITSA) opposed the attendance system and asked others to boycott it; all the junior doctors as well as other staff members no longer follow it.
Dr Musa Kaleem, general secretary PGMITSA, however, argued that they opposed the biometric system as it was installed for fixed workers. “Biometric system is installed for shift system. We are willing to follow the biometric system if the government wanted us to work for six hours only. You may know we are 24 hours on call and can be called any time to the hospital,” he argued.
He said when the chief secretary, health secretary and other bureaucrats don’t follow the same system, why the government wanted to impose biometric system on doctors only. After LRH, the doctors of Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) and Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) also started opposing the biometric system.
However, general secretary Khyber Medical College Teaching Staff Association Dr Amer Azhar, an associate professor at the nephrology department of KTH, also said that the biometric system was meant for those working for fixed hours.
“We are 24 hours on call and cannot even go out of the city. In UK, the doctors, who remain on call for 24 hours, are paid double than those working for six hours,” he argued. He said under the Civil Service Rules, officers of grade-17 and above are exempted from attendance.