‘Business’ as Usual


Reports from the ground tell a story sharply at variance with what people who felicitated Jammu and Kashmir for its healthcare would like to believe. Not to speak of drugs supplied in hospitals or sold in the market, even bandages used at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) have been found 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 the quality of medicines and medical aids to earn a few bucks, and nothing moves. There should be a system in place for purchase of drugs and medical equipment.

Not only e-tendering, there must be somebody to check the quality of drugs/equipment supplied. Taking samples after delivery and coming out with reports after months of the purchase makes no sense. This also helps in institutionalizing corruption. Pertinently, drug control officials had lifted samples of many dressing items at the SKIMS for analytical procedures. The drug control department had also directed authorities at the Institute not to use the material till reports become available.  Instead of implementing the directive, authorities at the Institute distributed all sub-standard material among patients.

The purchase committee must have a senior officer from the Drug Control Department besides prominent and reputed members of the civil society. The analysis must be done at the time of purchase. In fact, purchases must be made only after the committee gives its consent.  And if any drugs and equipment are still found sub-standard, the members of the committee must be detained under the Public Safety Act along with the suppliers. The purchase of drugs and medical equipment has a direct bearing on public health and patient care and anyone who compromises on this needs to be taken to task.

The government had launched a crackdown on unregistered and recognized chemists and druggists. But the campaign was abandoned halfway for unknown reasons.  Second, the practice of approving the tender of the lowest bidder must be abandoned at least as far as purchase of drugs is concerned. The government also had a new drug policy on its mind last year. But to this day nothing has been done in this regard and spurious/sub-standard drugs continue to be sold with impunity. It is ‘business’ as usual.