Corporation for purchasing supplies for hospitals floundering

SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation Limited, (JKMSCL) which is supposed to be handling purchases for hospitals has not been able to streamline operations yet. As a result, hospitals are now facing a shortage of medicines and fluids.
The JKMSCL, headed by Commissioner Secretary, MK Bandari, took over the role of the purchase committee this financial year, but till today no purchases have been made by the corporation. Earlier, the purchase committee was composed of members from the government medical college and associate hospitals. And though the JKMSCL was set up in 2013 – in the wake of a scandal related to sub-standard drugs in the state– it had only this year started the process of issuing tenders.
This centralised system of purchases for hospitals was also intended to replace the independent purchase committee system so as to ensure transparency and quality of drugs. But this endeavour, it seems, is now tangled in red tape.
“We have given them (the corporation) our requirement list, but as of now no item has been approved. The (old) purchase committee, though it stands dissolved, has been making purchases on a day to day basis as per the requirement of the hospital, because we never know when the corporation will start functioning,” said Medical Superintendent SMHS hospital Nazir Choudhary.
One of the problems seems to be the rather complicated, stage-wise formalities which are part of the JKMSCL tender process. This has made it a bit difficult for local suppliers to float their tenders. “They (JKMSCL) need registered firms, and the firms are not getting a registration certificate from the government. The process of bidding is complex; it’s a two-stage bidding process and due to these complexities they are not getting suppliers,” said a purchase committee member.
“When we use to float tenders,” he added, “the process would be completed in a month. But with JKMSCL, things just don’t proceed at the same pace. It has been five months, and all they have done is push forward their date of submitting tenders every month. Now, the recent extension made for submission of e-tenders is August 20. Let’s hope they meet the deadline.”
Meanwhile, patients are suffering. Says a doctor, on condition of anonymity, “In the Intensive Critical Care Unit a patient has to be given 10-12 injections. And each injection costs around Rs 400; and the hospitals would bear all the expenses. But now, when the purchase committee is dissolved, patients have to buy their own medicines. We mostly deal with poor patients, who prefer to come to government hospitals because they don’t have to spend money here. The minimum expenditure for a patient in ICU is around Rs 20,000 and a person from a poor family just cannot afford it. And if things continue like this, it will be a shame for our government, which boasts about working for poor people.”
“There is a huge dearth of funds. The government has money to invest in kabbadi, but not on health. We are in debt, we have to clear a huge amount of bills with our suppliers, and they are not giving us more supplies on a short-term basis as their previous bills haven’t been cleared yet,” said a member of the Rate Contract Committee, which used to decide on modalities of purchases.
Despite repeated attempts, Commissioner Secretary MK Bandari remained unavailable for comment and also refrained from replying to messages.
“The delay is sending a clear message they don’t know how to make the corporation function,” said a source in the administration. “The commissioner is already busy with other affairs, now he has been given this extra job. And the other technical staff is new to the business, and they don’t yet know how to get things done.”
“Also, health minister Lal Singh apparently wanted to make Riyaz Dar, a health officer who was one of the alleged ‘tainted officials’ terminated from his job due to allegations of corruption, the head of the corporation. All this makes some people think they want to keep their own people in the corporation, and also that they might give tenders to their own people too,” the source added.