Kashmir hospitals have run dry of essential medicines and supplies for infants and expecting mothers, promised free through centrally sponsored schemes, putting the lives at risk while health authorities pass on the buck and evade blame for the crisis.
Free medicines and supplies for infants are part of the centrally sponsored scheme Rashtriya Bal Swawasthya Karyakram (RBSK), while a similar scheme Janani Shishu Suraksha Yojana envisages providing entirely free treatment to mothers to be, during and after delivery. However, both the schemes have run into a rough patch as no free medicines and supplies for infants and expecting women are available in most Kashmir hospitals.
On Monday, GB Pant Children Hospital issued advertisement for short term quotation of 85 essential medicines and supplies. Similar advertisements have been issued by other hospitals recently. Sources said that in most hospitals, there are no supplies of essential and emergency medicines and disposables. "We are facing a never before crisis. We have no stock of these supplies available and are being forced to resort to stop-gap arrangement," a senior administrator in a Srinagar's tertiary care hospital said.
Doctors said that the shortage of emergency drugs and disposables in hospitals was putting the lives at risk, especially those of infants. "The scheme RBSK had been introduced to reduce infant mortality. Now that the situation is such that we will be forced to ask parents to buy everything, including emergency injections and ventilator tubing from market, infant mortality is sure to get affected," a senior pediatrician at GB Pant Hospital said.
Mission Director National Health Mission, Dr Mohan Singh, said that all funds for JSSK and RBSK had been released and transferred to hospitals and it was the prerogative of the hospitals to ensure supplies of essential medicines and disposables. "We are just transit point for funds and have not retained any funds. All hospitals have been given adequate funds to make purchases well in time," he said.
Documents reveal that government has recently directed all hospitals to transfer 75 percent of the funds to JKMSCL, and utilize the remaining 25 percent for "meeting exigencies".
Hospital administrators blamed the crisis on this directive from government and the order that mandates all purchases to be routed through JK Medical Supplies Corporation Limited (JKMSCL), and the inadvertent delay by this central purchasing agency. "We have placed purchase orders and also transferred funds. But for months no medicines are coming to us," Dr Samia Rashid, Principal Government Medical College Srinagar said. She added that "a bigger crisis" was imminent if JKMSCL did not expedite supplies or an alternate arrangement was put in place.
Managing Director JKMSCL Inderjeet Singh said that the hospitals delayed sending requisition to the corporation. "They (hospitals) had to requisition supplies in November 2016. They delayed it till May 2017. We have a set procedure for procurement and it takes a few months," he said. He blamed hospitals for failing to follow the procedures.