The current financial crunch has finally hit an emergency sector like health. A number of dog-bite cases, requiring an immediate injection of anti-rabies vaccine, were turned away by the state-run Nilratan Sirkar Hospital on Monday because stocks were not replenished by Hopkins Institute in Mumbai and the Pasteur Institute of India in Kunoor, Tamil Nadu. The reason: non-payment of dues.
Sources in the health department said the two vaccine-manufacturers cut supplies as the government owes them about Rs 40 lakh, accumulated over the past few months. When parents and relatives — some of them had come from far-flung areas — were informed of the shortage of vaccine at NRS, they held a demonstration. The situation was met in about an hour, after fresh supplies were rushed in from nearby Pasteur Laboratories, a state-owned manufacturer of the vaccine.
Confirming that there had been a stop in the supply of the vaccine, director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said that he had contacted finance secretary S.N. Ghosh during the day. Ghosh had assured him that the required funds to pay the bills would be released soon.
Chatterjee said he had also sent across messages to the districts, asking the hospital authorities there to buy anti-rabies vaccine from the open market. “I have asked them to buy the vaccine from Tamil Nadu or elsewhere by making immediate payment from the funds in hand of the ongoing World Bank project in the districts and the Prime Minister’s Gramin Yojna,” he added.