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Expired kits hinder hepatitis project

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RAWALPINDI:

The Local Hepatitis Elimination and Prevention Program (LHEAP), an American-funded project initiated by The Task Force for Global Health, that was resuscitated through local efforts after funding was cut short sees another setback as medical kits worth Rs2.7 million expire.

The programme has encountered multiple problems, including its failure to pay salaries to 50 staff and doctors working for the project, misuse of funds, expiry of testing kits and more.

The project failed to succeed when funding stopped after the first instalment of $25,000 arrived. Part of the initial funding was used to purchase medical kits worth Rs2.7 million, which were to be utilised for the diagnosis of hepatitis and free supply of medicines to patients.

However, the kits expired without being used as they remained kept and untouched for three months in a laboratory within the Rawalpindi Benazir Bhutto Hospital (BBH) which was undergoing renovations at the time. Moreover, the remaining funds from the $25,000 were not put to use correctly either.

Staff members and doctors who were working as part of the project were not paid salaries from July 2023 to December 2023. These workers, who had been working for six to seven months were eventually laid off without due compensation.

The Punjab minister of health had reportedly asked Dr John, the in-charge of this programme in the US, to release the funds. However, no funds after the first instalment of $25,000 were released.

The project was then re-functionalised under the direction of CEO Dr Ansar Ishaq, who turned to donations, Zakat, businessmen and philanthropists to raise the remaining funds and acquire other material support.

Dr Ishaq, in his statement said that the first tranche of American funding for the project was $25,000, whose custodian was the country head of the Global Health Task Force.

“The funds were used to purchase kits worth Rs2.7 million, which expired without being used and lay abandoned in the BBH lab. Salaries were not paid to the workers as well. Around 50 workers and doctors who were compelled to work for seven months were sacked. Now this program is named the Localised Hepatitis Elimination and Prevention Programme, and we are generating funds on self-help base,” he said corroborating the details of what had happened with LHEAP.

Dr Ishaq further stated that the blood screening of 36,239 people along with PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test under the new programme had been completed in eight union councils, which included councils 6,8,10,11,15,31 of Rawalpindi and union council 116 of Taxila.

Results of the tests revealed that 851 men and women had hepatitis C, 186 men and women had hepatitis B, and 15 people had both hepatitis B and C. Additionally, seven pregnant women were also diagnosed with hepatitis C. All patients diagnosed are currently receiving a free course of treatment.

Dr Ansar said that patients diagnosed with hepatitis from Municipal Medicine Centre Satellite Town are currently receiving the medicine.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2024.

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