KARACHI: Amid the breakdown of fragile sewerage, sanitation and civic infrastructure in the province by the recent rains, another crisis is looming large on major hospitals across Sindh as authorities concerned have failed to execute a procurement plan of medicine and medical supplies even after the passage of almost first quarter of the fiscal year, leaving public health facilities without key supplies, Dawn has learnt.

The Sindh government hospitals across the province are running their operations without medicines and in some cases several health facilities have formally informed authorities about their inability to operate even their emergency units in such a situation, officials said.

Highlighting the gravity of the situation, a source privy to the situation referred to the recent makeshift arrangement from the authorities.

Health department writes to the director general of health to allow purchase of medicines for Muharram emergencies

“Every year in Muharram, the public hospitals are advised to stay on alert and make arrangements to meet any challenge that requires keeping health facilities in order mainly its emergency units,” he said.

“This year the authorities are well-aware of the situation that in case of any challenge or untoward incident, the hospitals cannot even put their emergency units in operation due to unavailability of medicines and other required supplies. So the situation is so bad that the Sindh health department has written to the director general of health to allow purchase of medicines up to Rs300,000 to all public hospitals so that they can make at least arrangements for Muharram emergencies.”

He said that two major hospitals in Karachi, the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) and the Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital, took care of thousands of patients every day, but with each having around 2,000-bed capacity, the facilities were facing medicine and other healthcare supplies crisis since past more than three months.

One of the two hospitals provided emergency treatment to around 500,000 patients every year.

“One can imagine how long such big hospitals can operate normally with such huge number of patients with no medicines and other healthcare supplies,” he added.

However, the officials referred to ‘genuine reasons’ which caused so much delay and sounded confident that once the procurement process began, it would not take more than a few weeks to meet the demands of supplies of hospitals across the province.

“Last year during the procurement of medicines and other supplies for public hospitals, a few complaints emerged,” said Dr Saeed Qureshi, vice chancellor of the Dow University of Health Sciences, who headed the central procurement committee of the Sindh health department.

“So the government decided to keep the process transparent this year and the committee was tasked with the procurement of medicines and other healthcare supplies for the public hospitals. We have initiated the process and it is hoped that by the mid of next month, we would be able to supply necessary items to our hospitals like cannula, syringes, antibiotics and different vaccines,” Dr Saeed Qureshi added.

However, the management of different public hospitals and people associated with the business of medicine supplies and dealing with government agencies do not see any major improvement in supplies before December 2019 due to delays in the process.

“It’s a good sign that at least the process has been started,” one of the sources privy to the process said.

“But you know the process and its formalities when it comes to government agencies and committees. It will not take less than three months to meet all the demands. So after three months, you can imagine by yourself half of the current financial year would have passed and the hospitals would be facing six month of medicine shortages,” he added with a grave warning tone.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2019