In an effort to address the recurring problem of medicine shortages in civic-run hospitals in Mumbai, Dr. Sudhakar Shinde, the additional municipal commissioner, took swift action by calling a crucial meeting with the central purchase department. The goal of this meeting was to find the reasons behind the medicine shortages and to challenge the grip of monopolistic contractors.
Dr. Shinde made a significant move by cancelling the weekly days off for all officers involved in the procurement process. This step was aimed to gain a deeper understanding of the various stakeholders and contractors responsible for supplying medicines to the hospitals. He also aimed to gain insights into the tendering process, particularly exploring why only one company seemed interested despite multiple potential options.
Medicine shortages have been an ongoing issue in hospitals under the administration of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). These shortages tend to resurface every few months, causing inconvenience to patients who may be asked to source medicines from external sources. Essential supplies like gloves, saline, and medical dressings have also faced shortage during such times.
Addressing the issue promptly is important for the BMC. A senior officer shed light on various contributing factors, including the dominance of a single contractor and potential collusion between doctors and BMC officials. Unless the BMC takes swift action, the shortage of medicines is likely to persist. This situation forces patients to purchase medicines at their own expense, even though these same medications are available free of charge at the hospital pharmacy.
The All Food and Drug License Holder’s Foundation (AFDLHF) emerged as a vocal advocate for change. Representing over 500 pharmaceutical manufacturers and 1,000 distributors from across India, the foundation revealed that the BMC's Central Purchase Department had not floated tenders for bulk purchases in the past two to three years. This failure to solicit competitive bids is believed to be the root cause of the significant medicine shortages witnessed. It is estimated that the BMC suffered losses of nearly ₹100 crore over the course of the last two years due to these practices.
Dr. Shinde's proactive efforts and the concerns raised by organizations like AFDLHF shed light on the need for systemic change. Addressing the tendering process and dismantling monopolistic practices are crucial steps toward ensuring a consistent and reliable supply of medicines to the civic-run hospitals in Mumbai. The ongoing commitment to resolve this issue will undoubtedly have a positive impact on patient care and the overall functioning of these essential healthcare institutions.