Updated: April 28, 2021 11:46:09 am
Long queues to buy Remdesivir were seen at Chennai’s Kilpauk Medical College for the second day in a row, sending social distancing for a complete toss as harried people got into arguments with each other and the stationed officials while trying to procure the Covid-19 drug for hospitalised loved ones.
Even as announcements were made on a loudspeaker to not crowd the counter and maintain a queue, lack of facilities like signboards and an insufficient number of officials to guide the public led to chaos.
To buy the medicine, people need a doctor’s prescription (original not photocopy), the hospital name, photocopy of the patient’s RT-PCR test report, photocopy of Aadhar card (of both the patient and the procurer), and photocopy of CT scan report showing the patient’s lung involvement.
Long queue at Kilpauk Medical College to buy #Remedesivir. People have been waiting since 5 am to get the medicine. Officials said 200 people have received the vials till now. The counter will be open till 5 pm. @IndianExpress pic.twitter.com/wjzaB4SxmO
— Janardhan Koushik (@koushiktweets) April 27, 2021
The counter at the hospital was opened on Monday by the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation (TNMSC) following reports that Remdesivir was not available in hospitals and was being sold at three to four times its retail price in the black market.
Following complaints of overcrowding Monday, TNMSC officials had assured conditions would improve by Tuesday, but that did not happen.
People who got the token the previous day started to gather from as early as 4 am. The queue swelled even before the counter opened at 10 am. As only a few officials had been appointed to take care of billing and verification, it took more than 20 minutes for a single person to get the vials. The absence of online or card payments made the situation worse. Many who reached the counter after having stood in the queue for a long time had to leave empty-handed as they did not have cash.
“We have to get the details and verify them. If we allow card payment, it will take longer, as we will have to update the billing details. So we insist on only cash payment to make the process quicker,” an official near the counter said.
Several people who didn’t get the medicine on Monday stood in the queue again Tuesday. Bilal, a resident of Tondiarpet, was one among them, who was waiting to get the medicine for his uncle undergoing treatment at a private hospital in New Delhi.
“My uncle tested positive for COVID-19 and he is undergoing treatment in Delhi. There was a shortage of Remdisivir in his hospital and hence he requested me to get the medicine from here. I came yesterday but only 75 tokens were distributed. I am standing from 8 am in the hope that I will get the medicine today. I have a flight to catch today evening. If I am not able to get the drug, I have to cancel everything and wait till I get it,” he said.
Another person from Tiruchirapalli said he had come to procure the medicine for his parents.
“The hospital told us they don’t have Remdisivir and asked us to find it. We searched across all the major drug stores in our town but couldn’t get it. The hospital said if we get the medicine, the health condition of my parents would improve. I came to know about this counter at Kilpauk and reached the place today morning,” he said.
Most said better arrangements would have averted the overcrowding. “We are standing here in this queue very close to each other. We don’t know who has Covid symptoms or is awaiting test results. If someone here is positive and if the infection spreads to other people, imagine the situation, it will be another cluster. The hospital didn’t conduct any temperature check on people standing in the line. . Many people aged above 50 years have been standing in the hot sun for hours, what if they faint? People haven’t moved an inch to get something to eat or drink as they fear their place will be taken by someone else,” a man in the queue said on condition of anonymity.
The situation turned worse post 5 pm, as the counter was closed and the waiting people got into a heated argument with the police and government officials, saying they may not be able to save their family members without the drug.
Earlier on Tuesday, Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said not everyone requires Remdisvir and other drugs, and should buy them only on the advice of doctors. He said they are taking steps to increase the counters at Kilpauk and also to make the drug available in other major cities as well. He added that special squads have been formed to nab black-marketeers.
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