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Medicine watchdog for hospitals

Calcutta, Dec. 27: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s cabinet today gave the nod to a new West Bengal Medical Services Corporation to monitor the supply of medicines and equipment to hospitals and health centres and ensure their better upkeep.

“It would regularise the supply of medicines and other medical equipment to all hospitals across the state,” Bengal chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb said at Writers’ Buildings.

The government spends Rs 150 to 170 crore to buy medicines and medical equipment every year, but sources in the health department said they often do not reach the hospitals.

“The corporation would act independently. It would see to it that hospitals get the required medicines and other necessary equipment,” Deb said.

The sources said a centralised system would be set up, having data on stocks, requirements and medicines used in all health institutions — from medical colleges to primary health centres.

“This would stop wastage and pilferage,” an official said.

Until three years ago, medicines had to be procured from the Central Medical Stores.

Now, medicine purchase committees have been set up at the district level. The medical college hospitals — there are nine in the state — buy medicines approved by the central stores through tenders.

A health official said: “The quality of medicines is tested by the pharmaceutical companies and not by the health department.”

Moreover, the procurement process is long, resulting in short supply of medicines.

The corporation would have a separate wing for engineers who would look after the basic infrastructure maintenance problems of hospitals.

“Hospital authorities now depend on PWD officials for repair work, which often gets delayed. The new wing will act immediately,” said Deb.

Operation theatres cannot often be used because of petty maintenance problems such as short circuits. “One lift is almost always in disrepair. Repeated complaints to the PWD prove futile,” said a hospital superintendent.

PWD minister Kshiti Goswami took strong exception to the manner in which the task was taken over from his engineers. “We have engineers to oversee the maintenance job. Repairs get delayed sometimes because of our other preoccupations, but it is unfair to take the job away from us,” said Goswami, an RSP leader.

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