Appointing entomologists  


Sir: For prevention and control of vector-borne diseases in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (22 countries, including Pakistan), specialist medical entomologists were needed as no university offers specialised medical entomology courses.

For that, a specialised course was designed and sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in collaboration with USAID and the ministry of health in 2009.

The department of medical entomology and disease vector control was established at the Health Services Academy, Islamabad, affiliated with Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Recently, the health department Khyber Pakhtunkhwa announced the posts for entomologist on a contract basis for six months. The eligibility for these posts was graduation in entomology.

The walk-in interviews were called on May 12. An agriculture professor was the chairperson of the interview panel. The interview panel was biased having no medical entomologist. They neglected the medical entomologists and disease vector control experts by either not considering their diploma issued by the Health Services Academy or by making baseless degree issuance issues.

The programme was to recruit agriculture entomologists instead of medical entomologists as all agriculture entomologists were students of the chairperson of the interview panel.

The additional secretary, health, also asked humiliating questions not related to the interview to medical entomologists. Sixteen grade posts were offered instead of 17-grade as in the advertisement.

The agriculture entomologists only study plant diseases (pests, etc), and have no knowledge of human vector-borne diseases, pathology, epidemiology, etc. The medical entomologists are experts in human vector-borne diseases prevention and control such as dengue, malaria, leishmaniasis, filariases, CCHF and onchocerciasis.

They study entomology, epidemiology, biostatistics, parasitology, health management, disease early-warning system, etc. It is like recruiting DVM doctors for human treatment instead of MBBS graduates.

This difference has several times been discussed with the health secretary Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, director-general of health, and even the minister. The former federal director-general of health, Asad Hafeez, sent the letter regarding the recruitment of medical entomologists as the criterion set by WHO, but even then Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department is violating the rules.

Can the KP health department control dengue by recruiting agriculture experts? Is it trying to make dengue another crisis like polio for the province and the country? Is it utilising the resources in the right direction?

The government is going to put the lives of all inhabitants of the province at stake by doing this.

M. Qasim Khan