The Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital is facing a huge shortage of drugs. The hospital, which registers around 12,000 outpatients and 3,000 inpatients every day, is unable to supply drugs to patients for conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and seizures.
The hospital does not have enough stock of saline, dextrose and Ringer Lactate, fluids that must be essentially administered to patients, post-surgery. At present, the hospital requires around 2,450 bottles of normal saline but gets only 2,200 bottles. In the case of Ringer Lactate, of the 990 required, only 900 are supplied.
At a hospital where 140 surgeries are performed daily shortage of such essential drugs are putting doctors on tenterhooks. “From providing month-long supplies of commonly-prescribed drugs like Metformin for diabetes, we have cut down to fortnightly supplies. Some patients are not amenable to this. For them, we prescribe the monthly dosage,” said a senior diabetologist at the hospital. If all patients must be supplied Metformin, then the hospital must spend Rs.40, 000 a day.
The commonly-prescribed drug Amlodipine for hypertension is also in short supply. According to a senior hospital authority, 15 days ago, the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation (TNMSC) had sent a report of the drugs it had in stock. According to the official, the Corporation had issued a No Objection Certificate (NOC) for 22 drugs, had not supplied 63 drugs and stated that 21 other drugs required by the hospital were in short supply. It had also informed the hospital that 46 drugs were not available with it.
The hospital requires around Rs. 6.31 lakh worth of drugs every day, but a Government Order issued by the Health Department provides the dean powers to purchase medicines only to the worth of Rs. 50,000 a day.
Recently, Health Minister V.S. Vijay held a meeting with the Corporation, deans of the medical colleges, director of public health, director of medical services and director of medical education. At that time, the Corporation had been asked to improve the situation within 15 days. It is learnt that the minister had told the Corporation that it should refrain from blaming the previous government for the shortage of drugs in government hospitals.
However, nothing has come of the meeting, hospital authorities said. Giving an NOC just when the drugs are running out of supply does not help as the hospital authorities have to go through the necessary tender process which takes 45 days. “At present we buy drugs as and when we need them but it is not feasible in the long run,” the official said.
Though the hospitals have received large sums of money under the Chief Minister’s Health Insurance scheme, the funds are distributed among the various departments and there is no specific information about whether the funds can be used for purchase of medicines.
“We deal with a large number of patients. Any patient who gets referred to the GH cannot be turned away unlike in other government hospitals. The government could increase the dean’s power and allow for purchase of Rs. 50,000 worth of medicines for each department,” an official said.
According to TNMSC managing director Satyabrata Sahoo, 263 drugs were supplied to the GH and at present the Corporation faced a shortage of six drugs only.
He added that the shortage of fluids like saline was due to its increased use in the past few months. “For several months now, saline solution has been in much demand because of the increase in cases of fever in the city. Issuing a NOC does not mean that we do not have the drugs. It means we are permitting the hospital to purchase the drugs that they need,” he added.
Keywords: Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital