With just three days left for the Centre’s new vaccination policy rollout, small private hospitals are in a quandary over a lack of clarity on the procurement mechanism.
On Wednesday, at a meeting with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, a private player suggested that vaccine doses be distributed among private hospitals based on their capacity so that the stocks last for a few days. Health secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas said they have also begun the process of collecting data on each hospital’s capacity, which will be sent to the central government.
“At this point, there is no clarity on whether the state government will intervene in the private supply chain. We are waiting for guidelines from the Centre. The Centre may manage it (the distribution) or ask states to mediate,” he said.
It has also been suggested that like Remdesivir and Amphotericin, the supply of vaccine doses to private hospitals can be managed at the district level based on their daily immunisation numbers.
A third suggestion said private hospitals should be given stock for a few days instead of allowing them to stock for a month.
In absence of clear guidelines, private players have said they will continue to place direct orders with manufacturers to procure doses after June 21. Between June 7 and 21, the central government has stopped vaccine supply to all states and the private sector.
In May, when the government allowed the private sector to buy 25 per cent of the total available vaccine supply, in Mumbai, three hospitals — HN Reliance, Godrej Memorial and Apollo — together had cornered 63 per cent of stock procured by hospitals in Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Forty-four other hospitals had shared the remaining supply.
Maximum doses were procured by HN Reliance (9.89 lakh doses), followed by Godrej Memorial hospital (3.35 lakh), Apollo (1.92 lakh) and Kokilaben (1 lakh) in May. Meanwhile, Breach Candy procured 33,620 doses in May, PD Hinduja got 96,000, Max Healthcare 50,000 doses, LH Hiranandani (15,000 doses), Jaslok (29,120 doses), Jindal Sanjeevani (36,000), and Holy Family Hospital procured 27,300 doses that month.
On June 7, the government modified its policy and announced the Centre will procure 75 per cent of the stock and supply it free of cost to states for everyone aged over 18 years. The remaining 25 per cent will be in the open market for the private sector to buy. The central government also announced they will help smaller hospitals procure doses.
A few private hospitals have now urged the state government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to also monitor supply to each hospital and ensure equitable distribution. “If all hospitals get stock for 10 days and are instructed to fast-track daily immunisation, the speed of vaccination and coverage both will increase,” Dr Gautam Bhansali, a physician at Bombay hospital, said.
While the BMC has begun collecting data, currently there is no authority to decide which hospital gets what quantity. Dr Mangala Gomare, BMC executive health officer, said they have no instructions from the central government on whether civic corporations have any role to play in controlling private channels.
Smaller hospitals have argued they are hardly able to get a response from manufacturers even if they are willing to make an advance payment. Sai hospital got 13,000 doses in May and is currently out of stock. It only used the doses for offsite camps in societies and corporate offices.
“Nobody is paying attention to smaller hospitals. For us procuring vaccine doses is very difficult,” Dr Khalid Shaikh, the in-charge of the hospital, said. Meanwhile, a few private hospitals continue to have lakhs of doses in stock.