Two automatic biochemical analysers installed in October 2008 at CGHS (Central Government Health Scheme) dispensaries in K.K. Nagar and Anna Nagar, each costing around Rs.18 lakh, have been out of order for several months now.
As a result, CGHS beneficiaries are being referred to private laboratories for biochemical investigations.
The equipment are under a five-year maintenance contract and towards that the CGHS has paid Rs.60,000 per machine per year. One of the features of the analysers is that they take less time to test multiple samples.
Employees in the centres say that the laboratory every day receives around 80 to 100 samples and around 300 to 400 investigations, from simple blood tests to testing liver functions, are done. At private laboratories, the tests cost anywhere between Rs.30 and Rs.500. High-end investigations such as liver tests could cost Rs.300 to Rs.500. Multiple investigations increase the price of tests.
“The cost is prohibitive to the government,” says A.V. Venkatraman, member, Advisory Council, CGHS, KK Nagar dispensary. While in-service patients are reimbursed such expenses incurred on investigation done at private laboratories, pensioners enjoy cashless facilities.
The automatic biochemical analysers were purchased from Italy and special air-conditioned rooms were readied for them. But, within a year problems sprouted. According to CGHS sources, the equipment in K.K. Nagar facility has been lying idle since June while that in Anna Nagar is not functioning since March.
However, the air-conditioning in the rooms is maintained.
The sources say problems began after it became known that the reagents needed to operate the machines are not manufactured in the country.
Also, the authorised service engineer was stationed in Secunderabad and the CGHS bore his travel expenses.
For sometime now the service agent had cited lack of spare parts for not making his usual trips, the sources add. According to senior officials at the K.K.Nagar dispensary, the Central Bureau of Investigation had conducted enquiries a few months ago.
Additional Director, CGHS, Chennai, P. Madhialagan says the purchase was made by the CGHS New Delhi and the annual maintenance contract was drawn up there. “The Delhi office has paid the two years' warranty and the fee for the AMC for three years in advance. The company which has the AMC has agreed to provide authorisation for appointing a service engineer in the city. We are awaiting that letter,” Dr. Madialagan added.