Bidders asked for an extended deadline, says SHRC director

The last date of submission of the much awaited bids for establishing private diagnostic centres in public health facilities of Chhattisgarh has been moved to February 10 from February 1. Explaining this change, J.P. Mishra, architect of the privatisation programme and State Health Resource Centre (SHRC) Director, an autonomous body that is overseeing the privatisation, told The Hindu that the bidders ‘asked for an extended deadline.’

Chhattisgarh is in the process of outsourcing diagnostic services at its public hospitals and health facilities. The government has issued request for proposals (RFP) from private diagnostic centres in this regard. According to the RFP, the government would outsource radiology and laboratory services in 379 facilities; including district hospitals, community health and primary health centres. The shift has been severely criticized by State public health activists.

The SHRC is overseeing the setting up of the private radiology and laboratory services for 10 years with provision for annual renewal. Proposals had been invited from private diagnostic centres last month to submit bids by 1,700 hours on January 25. Later, it was postponed till February 1 by the Directorate of (State) Health Services.

“The bidders requested to postpone the date as they were not prepared,” Mr. Mishra said. Activists who work in the public health department are upset with Mr. Mishra’s explanation. Sulakshana Nandi of Jan Swasthya Abhiyanargues, “If the bid submission is being postponed on the bidders’ request, then it clearly shows that at this early stage, the private sector bidders are dictating the terms and disregarding government orders.”

Mr. Mishra, however, said it is not unusual to have a few weeks’ gap before the bids are closed. “It is a convention, one can say, to allow four to six weeks time between the publication of the advertisement and the final date of submission of the bids,” he said.

Yogesh Jain of Bilaspur–based public health organisation Jan Swasthya Sahyog thinks there are other reasons for the postponement. “There is a vast area in Chhattisgarh where the government can not reach, an area inhabited by poor tribals with very limited access to health care. It is highly unlikely that the ‘profit people’ will set up diagnostic centres in such remote areas, where there is no profit,” said Dr. Jain. Perhaps, the government is not getting ‘sufficient proposals’ from private players to cover the entire State, he conjectured.

A senior official of the Chhattisgarh’s health department said there are a lot of ‘Left wing campaigns to sabotage comprehensive health care plan’ of the government. “But the government will go ahead and establish that there is no harm in using private expertise to boost public health care infrastructure,” said the seemingly agitated officer.

The Jan Swasthya Abhiyan organised a day long rally in Raipur where hundreds of health workers voiced their opinion against the privatisation of public health system.

  • “Postponement of bid submissions shows that private sector bidders are dictating terms”

  • “Perhaps government is not getting ‘sufficient proposals’ from private players to cover State”