Srinagar: Critical-care ambulances are not arriving in J&K for the past ten years because the purchase committee of the state health department keeps rejecting the companies that bid for its tenders.
According to official sources, the purchase committee on Wednesday decided to re-tender the critical-care ambulance services under 102 and 108 codes for the 15th time since 2008, when the first tender was issued.
“The decision was taken by the state-level purchase committee (SLPC) of the Health Department today, after some officials raised objections on the financial bid submitted by the two selected companies. The bids were opened in front of Principal Secretary Pawan Kotwal,” an official privy to the department meeting told Kashmir Reader.
He said the tendering process would be again started for the fifteenth time in the past ten years.
“It’s a delaying tactic to sabotage the prestigious scheme. Some officials are not interested in starting the scheme because they think it will burden them with one more responsibility. So, they always put hurdles in way of the tendering process,” the official said.
Another official said the purchase committee should have given one more chance to the selected companies to resubmit their tender, so that time and public exchequer could be saved.
“Ten years have already been wasted due to the delay by officials in finalising the tenders. They would always reject technical or financial bids of selected companies on one pretext or the other,” he said.
In 2012, there was a little headway in the scheme when then chief minister Omar Abdullah announced the toll-free 108 emergency service for J&K. However, the failure to finalise the tendering process grounded the services which would have been part of the National Health Mission (NHM) with 120 critical-care ambulances working under it.
In J&K, most of the ambulances hospitals have are simply ‘body carriers’ as they lack basic life support system to be used in case of emergency.
Director NHM, Dr Mohan Singh, who was part of today’s meeting said that the money for the purchase had already been transferred to the Medical Supplies Corporation.
“We have transferred all the budgetary allocation to the Corporation. It’s their responsibility to finalise the tender and start the services,” he said.
Managing Director of the J&K Medical Supplies Corporation (JKMSC), Inderjeet Bhagat, said that the corporation started the process a year ago and the main delay happened before the corporation was even constituted.
“The issue was complicated by other departments, including NHM, and other health officials,” he said.
He, however, refused to reveal the decision taken in today’s meeting. “I can’t tell you the details because decisions have to be reaffirmed from the Chairman,” Bhagat said.
Sources in the health department expressed disappointment at delaying tactics with other Government of India-run schemes as well.
“The officials failed to take the decision to start Biomedical Equipment Management and Maintenance Program (BMMP) for the repair of defunct bio-medical equipment in hospitals of J&K. The tender has been finalised but the officials have not approves the prices even after tenders were issued five times in the past,” they said.
According to officials, Principal Secretary Pawan Kotwal has designated a team led by Director General Health, Dr Saleem ur Rehman, to prepare a report on the reasonability of prices submitted by the bidder.
“Pawan Kotwal was very angry with the health officials present in the meeting as the implementation process of GoI-sponsored schemes always gets delayed on petty issues,” health officials said.
Kashmir Reader recently reported that more than 50 percent of bio-medical equipment in J&K hospitals is dysfunctional due to inordinate delay in implementation of the BMMP, a programme started in 2015.
The cost of the dysfunctional equipment is more than Rs 20 crore. The identification of such equipment, which is yet to be completed in J&K, had identified nearly 15,000 equipment in need of repair, Kashmir Reader had reported.
Dr Mohan Singh said that Rs 5 crore has been made available under the BMMP scheme, but the JKMSC was unnecessarily delaying the process.
“Our job is to give the money. For the rest, the corporation (JKMSC) is responsible,” he said.