The protestors said that of the 3,700 sanctioned posts, 400 were empty

Scores of pharmacists went on a day-long hunger strike on Thursday, demanding that vacancies be filled up in government hospitals.

The pharmacists, who came from as far as Theni, Perambalur, Salem and Tuticorin, said that of the 3,700 sanctioned posts across government medical institutions in the State, 400 were vacant. Of these, 300 are in primary health centres.

The protestors want the government to appoint one pharmacist for every 100 outpatients and every 75 inpatients in a hospital.

“The long queue for medicines outside pharmacies in government hospitals can be shortened by opening more counters and appointing pharmacists,” said the association’s president V. Govindarajan.

“According to the Drugs and Pharmacists Act of 1948, only pharmacists can handle drugs. There are 10,000 qualified diploma-holders in the State who can be offered these posts,” he added.

The pharmacists say that in many hospitals, the person who handles drugs is an administrative head without any understanding of drugs or their composition.

In a meeting held in 2010 in which the then health secretary, the directors of medical education, public health, medical services and ESI hospitals participated, it was decided to appoint a chief pharmacist at every hospital with 30 beds. Though the government issued an order to this effect, it has not yet been implemented, Mr. Govindarajan said.

The pharmacists also want their work time in PHCs to coincide with that of the doctor. At present, they work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. whereas the doctor works from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. “Only if there is a doctor, can we do our job,” said A. Balamurugan, the strike’s organising secretary.