PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department has decided to streamline the procurement of medical equipment and machines and provide them to public sector hospitals “only when the need arises.”

The decision comes as the department finds out that the millions of rupees worth of equipment supplied to some government hospitals without prior assessment was lying utilised.

The tendering process was relaxed to ensure speedy purchase of equipment during Covid-19 days but the bulk of that apparatus is still packed, points out special secretary (health) Habibullah in a letter sent to the directorate-general (health services), all district health officers, medical superintendents andproject directors separately.

In the official communication, the special secretary said he recently visited four public sector hospitals only and found equipment purchased unnecessarily to be still boxed and unutilised.

Finds out that machinery supplied to some health centres without prior assessment still unutilised

“It has come to notice that a large number of machinery and equipment, which were not needed, were provided to these hospitals without getting prior demand from management or carrying out need assessment,” he said.

According to Mr Habibullah, in some hospitals where there was no gynaecology, nursery or paediatric units, machinery and equipment such as incubators, baby warmers and even gynaecological suction machines, were provided but all had yet to be unpacked and were dumped in stores showing that neither need assessment was carried out for them nor was prior demand obtained from hospitals.

He said more than 10 ventilators were supplied to one of the district headquarters hospitals though there was no demand for them, so they’re “consigned” to the store.

“Those ventilators were purchased in 2019 during the Covid-19 pandemic after an emergency was declared. The department was exempted from the tendering process to ensure their quick procurement but taking benefit, unnecessary equipment was purchased and dumped in hospitals costing the exchequer millions of rupees,” he said in the letter.

The special secretary also said 400 blankets and 200 mattresses were given away to a DHQ hospital with 110 beds during the pandemic but they’d yet to be opened and given to patients and were dumped in store, while another such hospital, taking advantage of the tendering exemption, received over one dozen oxygen concentrator machines without any justification and as a result, they all were still unutilised.

He noted that huge government funds had been wasted unnecessarily and despite spending such huge amounts, health delivery services could not be improved.

Mr Habibullah said had health delivery services been improved with those supplies, the department would have not opted to outsource government hospitals.

He said most of that machinery and equipment were procured by the department without carrying out need assessment and getting a formal request from hospitals and thus, leading to a waste of huge funds.

“In order to ensure transparency in purchase of equipment, the logistic section of the office of the DG (health) should carry out e-tagging of all equipment purchased for hospitals along with all machinery and equipment donated by organisations and philanthropists, compile and computerise all data, and make it available to all concerned,” he said in the letter.

The special secretary added that the exercise should be completed in two months as its early completion would help improve need assessment for fair and transparent procurement of machinery and equipment in line with the actual requirement at all levels.

Sources in the health department told Dawn that it was the tip of the iceberg as machines and equipment valuing billions of rupees and purchased during Covid-19 days unnecessarily could be seen utilised in most hospitals.

They said as a rule, hospitals sent equipment demands to the department, which bought them as needed, but during Covid-19 days, relaxation of the tendering process enabled authorities to procure such stuff “without any need.”

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2023

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