Maharashtra’s state-run hospitals and dispensaries are fast running out of drug supplies. And the medics are blaming the state government for it. There has been an inordinate delay in the centralised purchase and distribution of medicines and consumables, sources confirmed. The situation is such that the hospitals and dispensaries served by the state’s public health department are left with an essential medicine stock of only a month-and-a-half.
On August 14 this year, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had disbanded the decentralised form of medicine procurement by various state government agencies and had appointed the Haffkine Institute for the purchase of medicine, consumables and medical equipment.
Two months later, the new procurement system is yet to take off, with the government seemingly still grappling with setting up the infrastructure for the new model. Blaming government red-tape, sources pointed out that Haffkine Institute’s proposal regarding appointment of a purchase committee has been pending with the state government for over a month now. Mantralaya sources said the proposal was pending with the office of Food and Drugs Minister Girish Bapat.
Sources said the authorities at the Haffkine Institute have indicated their reluctance to kick-start procurement in the absence of such a committee. The public health department alone procures about 429 medicines and drugs for its hospitals and dispensaries. Three other departments — Medical Education, Women and Child Development and Tribal Development — also procure medicines every year. In 2017-18, the government has set aside Rs 550 crore in all for centralised medicine procurement.
Earlier, these departments had their own independent procurement methods, Fadnavis brought them under one umbrella following allegations of irregularities and violation of norms in medicine purchase contracts worth Rs 40 crore under the National Urban Health Mission. The chief minister had then contended that the decentralised form of procurement was riddled with flaws and that there had also been complaints related to pricing, supply and quality of drugs. While Fadnavis had initially announced a plan of forming a new state-run corporation for the purchase and distribution of medicines on the lines of Tamil Nadu, he eventually entrusted the task to the Haffkine Institute.
But the procurement process is yet to commence. A senior medic said this was the latest in a series of delays. Since April 2016, the government has been able to make only partial purchase of medicines, forcing the public health department to permit localised purchases in several districts.
Fadnavis had earlier set up a procurement committee under former Director General of Police (retd.) Praveen Dixit to oversee the affairs, but the committee met only four times. Dr Satish Pawar, Director (Health Services), said, “The Haffkine Institute is now overseeing the procurement of medicines and equipment. We have requested them to expedite the process.” Dr Pradeep Vyas, Principal Secretary (Public Health), remained unavailable for comment.