Several hospitals in Delhi are grappling with a shortage of emergency drugs and items like surgical gloves, blades and sutures, four months after the Delhi government’s Health Department, in an effort to curb corruption, empowered its central procurement agency (CPA) to make all purchases of essential drugs and surgical items.
As many as 36 hospitals and 260 dispensaries are under the aegis of the Delhi government, and they are provided essential drugs and surgical items by the CPA. Earlier this year, the government had decided to allow the CPA to make all purchases, including those which cost below Rs 5 lakh and were earlier made by hospital authorities.
While many hospital officials have blamed the delay in the purchase of essential items by the CPA, Health Minister Satyendra Jain believes that a “conspiracy” against the Delhi government may be the reason behind the shortage.
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“There is a shortage in some items in some hospitals. This was expected because it is clearly a conspiracy against our government to make it seem like the revamped central procurement agency project has failed,” Jain told The Indian Express.
He also claimed that the government could not be held responsible for the shortage. “We only supply essential drugs and consumables, so why should the government be responsible for other shortages,” Jain said.
Meanwhile, hospitals have reported shortage of essential items for surgery like sutures, surgical blades, cotton and gloves as well as pain killers like morphine, antiemetic drugs, antibiotics, muscle relaxants and anaesthetic drugs.
“Earlier, when our own supplies ran out, we could make local purchases within Rs 5 lakh. The problem is that the supplies by the CPA are not specific to the hospital’s needs as the agency releases supplies uniformly. In a big hospital like ours, which receives emergency patients from across west Delhi, we keep running out of supplies, but we have to wait for the requirements we send,” said a senior official from Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital.
The shortage of surgical items was particularly acute in May but now the issue has been resolved “to a large extent”, said Dr Savita Babbar, medical superintendent of DDU hospital.
Dr Avneendra Prasad, medical superintendent of Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital, also said there had been delays in the supply of surgical consumables like cotton, gloves etc and emergency drugs. “We had to issue emergency orders for local purchases because supplies were getting delayed. We hope the problem will be resolved soon,” he said.
A senior official in Lok Nayak Hospital also confirmed that supplies of surgical consumables had been “delayed for weeks” in May and June. “This led to a shortage so there were complaints from many patients that they were being asked to buy essential consumables, but what option did the hospital have,” the official said.
The government’s new policy has faced teething troubles, admitted senior health department officials. “In all major hospitals, there were complaints of corruption over purchases and disparity in supplies. This policy has been introduced recently and with time, we will be able to streamline supplies better so that we meet the demand of every hospital. We are trying our best to keep up the process of inviting tenders and purchases, particularly for consumables, where there are complaints of shortages,” the official said.