Kozhikode govt. hospitals in grip of drug shortage, poor patients hit

Authorities trying to tide over crisis by purchasing medicines from local market

Published - July 20, 2022 09:24 pm IST - Kozhikode

Government hospitals in Kozhikode district are in the grip of a shortage of drugs, especially antibiotics and those necessary to treat lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, cholesterol, and hypertension.

This is happening at a time when there is a rise in the number of people seeking treatment for viral infections. Thousands are reported to be approaching the outpatient departments of various hospitals with flu symptoms. The shortage seems to be severe at the Government Medical College Hospital, Government General Hospital, Government District Hospital, and the four taluk hospitals at Koyilandy, Perambra, Balussery, Thamarassery, Feroke, Kuttiyadi, and Nadapuram. The poor are the worst hit, as they are the ones most dependent on government hospitals.

Sources said many patients were finding it difficult to get azithromycin and amoxicilline, antibiotic drugs; salbutamol, which is used to treat breathing problems such as asthma; pain killer aspirin; and even paracetamol tablets and syrup. In some places, doxycycline, commonly used to treat bacterial infections, is in short supply.

Staff at pharmacies attached to government hospitals are seen advising patients or their caregivers to get the medicines from private shops. Health centres in rural areas, however, are somewhat in a better position, as they are able to source funds from respective local bodies to buy drugs. Some grama panchayats, meanwhile, are yet to get government permission, though they have allocated funds for the purpose.

Tender delayed

The sources said the indent list for medicines at the medical college hospital was generally given in November every year. Kerala Medical Service Corporation Limited (KMSCL), the State government-owned company that provides drugs for public sector hospitals, starts the tender process in February-March. This year, however, the process was delayed, and tenders could be called for only by May-June. Since some companies chosen were blacklisted earlier, they were removed, and fresh ones were included. There were very few takers for some tenders as well. This coupled with the change of guard at KMSCL aggravated the situation, the sources pointed out.

In some other hospitals, the indent is given in August itself, the tender process starts by January, and the distribution of medicine begins by April. This system could not be followed this year. Earlier, review meetings were held to take stock of the availability of medicines. They were reportedly stopped saying the government software would have all the data. Some officials claim that the data in the software were not updated regularly.

The authorities are now trying to tide over the crisis by purchasing medicines from the local market or internally transferring stock with government hospitals in other districts. Meanwhile, the Health department has reportedly begun a stocktaking of medicines to make one list of those bought from KMSCL and the others purchased using funds from local bodies.

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