Drug shortage in Karnataka, health department faces bribe heat

44 essential drugs, medical supplies, IV fluids, syringes out of stock in hospitals
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai. (Photo | Nagaraja Gadekal, EPS)
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai. (Photo | Nagaraja Gadekal, EPS)

BENGALURU: Hospitals in Karnataka are witnessing a shortage of drugs and medical supplies, with the ongoing fulfilment process of the state health centre’s demand list for the year 2020-21, as mentioned in a letter by Health and Family Welfare Services dated September 14.

Out of 445 medicines, the tender process of 210 medicines has been completed, but is ongoing for the remaining 235 drugs, and is expected to take around 60 days to be completed. The department is trying to procure the medicines locally for a temporary period, to overcome the ongoing shortage. According to the letter, there is a shortage of 44 essential drugs currently in hospitals across the state.

Sources also raised concerns of shortage of medical supplies, like IV fluids, painkillers, paracetamol tablets, disposable cannulas, syringes, surgical sutures etc regularly used in government hospitals and PHCs.

Groups of vendors associated with the Karnataka State Medical Supplies Corporation Limited (KSMSCL) for drugs and medical supplies have alleged that the department seeks bribes to clear pending bills.
A vendor said the department was made to centralise medical supplies, however, mismanagement had caused the opposite. They said that during the Covid pandemic, a lot of emergency procurement was done and vendors supplied medicines/equipment going beyond their reach. However, post delivery of products, they faced many issues with clearance of EMD (Earnest Money Deposit) or their pending bills.

Many bills remain pending until now. Companies like Biocon Biologics, Capital Biotech, Juggat Pharma have written to the department requesting clearance of bills, which can mount to over Rs 100 crore.
Biocon Biologics recently wrote to the Health department, regarding dues in payment for supplies of Remdesivir during Covid-19 second wave. The letter mentioned delay in clearance of Rs 63.34 lakh for supplies, and Rs 43.14 lakh worth of deposit.

Constant change of department heads caused inconvenience in terms of management, vendors complained. Due to this, lower ranked officers created chaos in terms of selective clearance of bills, another vendor alleged. Participation and procurement of tenders by smaller companies was also raised, alleging lobbying and favouritism towards certain companies. The department was allegedly drawing up drafts, sidelining certain companies for their automatic removal from the tendering process.

Despite numerous calls to department of KSMSCL, there was no response regarding alleged bribery, pending bills and mismanagement in the department.

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