Pardeep Singh Bali
Announced in haste by the Jammu and Kashmir government some six years back, the ‘flawed’ drug policy has remained a ‘flop show’ for the over all infrastructure of the health system, but turned boon for politicians and administrators associated with the policy.
According to sources in the health department, the policy has evoked great criticism among the stakeholders, who claim it to be a flop show dedicated to benefit handful of politicians and senior officers associated with the purchase committee of the Medical Corporation.
“Some five to six years back, this policy was announced by the J&K government to improve the overall infrastructure of the health system across the state. Though there was huge conspiracy to bring this policy, as fake case was charged upon the former health minister, in consequent upon this a policy was made in which medical corporation was centralized to purchase the important drugs,” said sources, adding that those at the helm of affairs of the Medical Corporation in connivance with former health minister, without considering the requirement of the drugs, make ‘arbitrary’ purchases, which is affecting overall infrastructure of health system.
“To benefit big pharma companies, which are sharing bounty with the health minister and those handling the affairs of the corporation (Medical Corporation), expensive drugs are being purchased, which deprive district and sub district hospitals of their need,” said sources adding that every hospital has different requirement and one cannot rationalize it by centralizing the purchasing power.
“The government, if had been sincere in its approach of improving the health system of the state, would have decentralized the purchasing power and every sub district hospital should have been empowered to make purchases under certain slabs, this would not only have provided needful and adequate supply of medicines at every institute, but had also rooted out corruption from the health department,” sources said and added CMO, BMO and even director should be given responsibility of purchasing medicines, so that they can be made accountable, “At present no one from the medical corporation is responsible, while as crore of rupees is being swindled and shared,” sources asserted.
If sources are to be believed, in the name of emergency drugs at DH, SDH, Primary Health Centers and even government medical college and associated hospitals, there is nothing at their disposal, which ultimately makes doctors on duty to confront patients’ wrath.
“Most of the government hospitals lack emergency drugs, including pain killers like injection Voveran, Inj Tetanus, Inj Diazepam, IV fluids-NS, DNS and D5, Medi Kit and drip set among other essential things. The medical corporation instead of concentrating on purchasing these basic drugs resort to purchase of higher anti biotics, which included Injection Pipercillin-Tazobactum, Inj Pantop, tab Cefourxime and Inj Ceftraxone-Tazobactum, which are not only rarely used but are also expensive,” sources said and added most of these drugs get expired, as their utilization is very low, hardly 5-10 percent patients are being treated with these drugs.
Sources said, the gravity of the situation could be gauged from the fact that the problem which can be treated with the medicine of Rs 2-4 is being treated with expensive medicine, thus putting extra burden on the government exchequer.
Meanwhile, a senior doctor wishing anonymity accused previous health ministers for this mess, he said, the ministers used to invite pharma companies to crack a deal.
“All the health ministers had vested interests. If they were serious to improve health facility in JK, they would have decentralized the drug purchase at institute level. The ministers used to deal with big pharma companies in lieu of big share,” he said and added under this policy the important sectors of the health remained unattended.
“The quality of the health sector will not improve until the hospitals are well equipped with advanced instruments and recruitment of adequate staff and doctors, besides participation of doctors in the advanced research conferences in and outside the country,” he said and added an equipment used for surgery has not been replaced since past 40 years, due to which the chances of negligence increases.
“The doctor becomes scapegoat, as the mismanagement on the part of administration makes them prone to face wrath of the patients in case of any untoward incident,” he said and added many machines in the GMC have not been replaced since many years.
He maintained that last time a delegation of doctors met new health minister, who was kind of convinced with the professional demand, but to benefit certain section of the stakeholders, secretary health subjugated the idea and brainwashed the minister, who was ready to revoke this policy.
He further asserted that the people holding administrative posts are not directly responsible to the people, it is doctor who is considered to be at fault. This policy is nothing more than a baby of few bureaucrats, ministers and big pharma companies.
“After years of advocacy and lobbying by various professional groups, Ministry of Health, Government of J&K framed a draft drug policy in the year 2009. Almost all major issues of serious public concern that inter alia include sale of spurious and sub-standard drugs, menace of drug addiction, unethical drug promotion practices of pharmaceutical companies, unethical drug prescribing practices of some unscrupulous doctors, sale of drugs by licensed but unqualified pharmacists have been completely ignored in the draft,” he alleged.
“Draft policy of the state govt. does not put forth any policy parameters required to curb the menace of spurious drugs or on the need for introducing WHO-IMPACT approved anti-counterfeiting technologies in the drug procurement system,” he said and added that there is no mention of constituting legal and intelligence cells for speedy culmination of prosecutions and busting of fake drug rackets respectively. There is also a dire need to conduct a comprehensive statewide survey on spurious drug trade wherein large number of samples needed to be lifted from every nook and corner of the state to arrive at a firm conclusion about the magnitude of this problem prevalent in the state.
However, the people and doctors expressed great expectations from the new health minister, saying that the new minister is holding responsibility of resurrecting the dead institution.
Despite calling several times, none of the official, including health minister, secretary health and managing director Medical Corporation was available for comments.