Government-run hospitals across Maharashtra are facing an acute shortage of medicines due to an inherent flaw in the procurement process. This is allegedly one of the reasons for over 30 deaths within 24 hours at the Nanded and Sambhaji Nagar hospitals.
The Medical Goods Procurement Authority Act was passed in March but is yet to be implemented. Moreover, there are several changes in rules that have led to choked supply to Haffkine Biopharmaceutical, which routes medicines to state hospitals. In fact, Haffkine had refunded around Rs 20 crore to Nagpur district hospital as most medical colleges had abruptly stopped procuring medicines from it.
Earlier in March, state health minister Tanaji Sawant had decided to establish an independent authority to streamline procurement and supply for all state government health institutions, ensuring easier, transparent, fair, and affordable access to medicines.
A senior official on condition of anonymity said that the Act hasn’t come into force due to several reasons, including the formation of committee and protocol establishment. The last medicine procurement tender was floated in August and it takes at least two months for the channelling process.
Official Says, 'Govt Stopped Procurement Of Medicines From Haffkine'
The official said, “There is no doubt that hospitals across the state are reeling under shortage of medicines due to a change in the procurement rule. Moreover, the government had stopped procurement from Haffkine and formed a committee under the Directorate of Medical Education and Research for purchase and distribution.”
Abhay Pandey, the chairman of All Food and Drugs License Holders Foundation, said the hospitals will continue to face shortage as the procurement process starts in March and till date 50% should have been made available. He said, “Haffkine was the only authority for procurement for all the state hospitals, but now medicines are being purchased locally to overcome the shortage. The government is well aware of the problem but have not been able to solve it due to internal politics.”
Other health experts explained that the delay has increased to three to four years. Till date, only 20-30% of medicines were procured by Haffkine, which does not fulfil the need of all hospitals. The real problem, they said, are delays from the side of the state government, which has disbursed funds for purchases beyond the 10% allocation.