No mechanism to check pilferage of drugs, disposables in Kashmir hospitals

The recent case where government supplies, meant to be provided free to patients, were being sold in open market at Bandipora has exposed the lack of a mechanism to prevent pilferage of medicines and other supplies from hospitals of Kashmir.

A large stock of medicines, mostly injections and medical disposables such as IV-sets and syringes were found on sale at a pharmacy in Bandipora earlier this month. These supplies have to be provided free of cost to patients seeking treatment at the health center wherefrom these had been siphoned off to market. As per a source in health department, the supplies were part of the stock provided by community medicine department of Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) and directorate of health services Kashmir (DHSK).

Entire stock, the source said, had prominent labels of SKIMS and JK medical supplies corporation limited (JKMSCL), yet, the accused had “managed” its sale at his pharmacy in Bandipora, the source said.

J&K Drug and Food Control Organisation (DFCO) has initiated proceedings under Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 against the health department employee who owned the shop where the sale was taking place. A DFCO employee said that many a time in past also, they have recovered hospital supplies from chemists, who usually are “thick” with hospital staff. Last year, two employees of health department were found to be involved in stealing medicines from JLNM Hospital Rainawari and selling it to medical shops.

 “The hospitals here have very poor record keeping of the supplies in stock,” a senior DFCO official said. He added that a graver issue was that there was no “receipt system” or “log register” for medicines and supplies given to patients and therefore no way to check whether the medicines are actually being given to patients seeking treatment in hospitals or being supplied to “other places” where these could be sold.

A doctor working in a tertiary care hospital in Srinagar said that even in big hospitals, which are supposed to keep a fool-proof track of how much supply was sourced and how much was given to which patient have “nothing of sorts”. “The case has exposed the chinks in the healthcare system where there is no accountability for the supplies in hospitals,” he said.

Director health services Kaashmir Dr Kunzes Dolma acknowledged that there were “lacunae” in the medicine and supplies stock monitoring. “We have a system where medicine will be dispensed against a requisition signed by a doctor but yes, it is not being followed everywhere,” she said. She added DHSK was working towards “improving the system”. While referring to Bandipora case, she said, a committee is ascertaining “how much medicine had been provided to the hospital and how much of it had been supplied outside”. “The inquiry is on,” she said.