People who conferred an award on the Chief Minister in this field last year believe that Jammu and Kashmir comes out tops in healthcare facilities. But reports from the ground tell a different story altogether. Not to speak of drugs supplied in government-run hospitals or sold in the open market, even bandages used at the premier SKIMS have been found to be sub-standard. A special court has taken cognizance of the irregularity and issued arrest warrants against four dealers. This reflects the rot in the system. Babus compromise with the quality of medicines and medical aids to earn mega bucks, and nothing moves.
There should be a system in place for purchasing drugs and medical equipment. Not just e-tendering, foolproof mechanisms must be instituted to monitor the quality of drugs and equipment supplied. Taking samples after delivery and coming out with reports months after the purchase serves no purpose except lubricate the wheels of institutionalized corruption.
Pertinently, drug control officials had taken samples of many dressing items at the SKIMS for analytical procedures, and directed the Institute not to use the material till reports were available. But, instead of implementing the directive, hospital authorities put the sub-standard material to use on unsuspecting patients. Purchasing committees of major hospitals must have a senior officer from the Drug Control Department and prominent and reputed members of civil society on their panels. Analysis must be carried out at the time of purchase. In fact, purchases must be made only after the purchase committee gives its consent.
If any drugs or equipment are found sub-standard after this procedure, the members of the purchasing committee must be detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA) along with the suppliers. Procurement of pharmaceutical drugs and medical equipment has a direct bearing on public health and patient-care and anyone found compromising on this needs to be made an example of.
Once upon a time, the government had launched a crackdown on unregistered and recognized chemists and druggists, but gave it up midway for reasons known only to those at the helm. Second, the practice of approving tenders of the lowest bidder must be abandoned at least so far drugs are concerned. The government also had a new drug policy on its mind last year, but nothing has been done to enforce it to this day. Spurious and sub-standard drugs continue to be sold and supplied with impunity. Vested interests, it seems, have the run of the government. Or, as is sure to be more likely, they are the government.