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High Priced Purchases Made by State’s Health Department Raises Several Eyebrows

ICU Ventilator System
High Priced Purchases Health Department

A day after a local daily reported on high rates at which medical requirements were purchased by the Goa government, people across the state have expressed dissatisfaction from the government’s decisions to go ahead with purchases, even when the same was noted to be available at far lesser rates.

It was reported that the state government, through the Directorate of Health Services, went ahead and purchased medical requirements needed to handle the Covid-19 pandemic in the state. The purchases included gloves, N95 masks, PPE kits, body bags, and even ventilators.

The report highlights that the government booked a purchase of 200 ventilators – Model Trilogy 202-Philips make – from a private company in Mohali. The purchase was finalized through the District Mineral Foundation Fund, amounting to a total of Rs 16,30,72,000 and was placed on March 30, 2020.

“The central government has purchased ICU ventilators for Rs 2.5 lakh each and the Goa Government, which has the same political lineage, has purchased the same for nearly Rs 8 lakh each, whereas the same ventilators are available online for anything between Rs 1.5 to 3.5lakhs,” he said reacting to Herald report that was published on Wednesday, August 20, 2020.

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Goa Medical College had initially made provisions for around 60 ventilators from another private firm. However, the company expressed its inability to supply the ventilators due to the pandemic situation.

Interestingly, the Central government, through the PM CARES fund had allotted Rs 2,000 crore for supply of 50,000 ‘Made in India’ ventilators, which were distributed for government-run Covid-19 hospitals among states and UT’s. This, according to the report by the daily, works out to be Rs 2.5 lakh per ventilator.

However, this was announced by the central government only recently, on July 23; while it is pertinent to note that the state government had placed its order for ventilators in March 2020.

Health Minister Vishwajit Rane also highlighted this saying, “There was an urgency and we had no suppliers.”

Over the course of the nationwide lockdown and the subsequent phase-wise unlock that began from June, several questions were raised about the allocation of the PM CARES fund. Modi government had not made it public as to what amount was allotted for state’s and if purchases, such as that of ventilators, would be made available to states and UT’s.

However, besides the ventilator purchases, the report states other equipments, such as masks, PPE’s and even body bags were purchased from retailers at very high prices.

Purchase of all the medical items in view of the Covid-19 pandemic in the state was done through four funds – National Health Mission, National AYUSH Mission, District Mineral Fund, and Covid Relief Fund.

A cabinet note accords approval to the Directorate of Health Services to procure the items mentioned from any suppliers those who have ready stock, without tender, and later submit for post-facto approval for the same.

Moreover, almost Rs 47 lakhs were spent on the widely claimed immunity booster pills – Arsenic Album-30 – by the government; the same Union AYUSH Minister Shripad Naik kept encouraging people to take. However, He himself tested positive for Covid-19 last week, which was followed by ‘VVIP treatment’ as claimed by many, as a team from AIIMS, Delhi visited him to look into his treatment.

The report also indicates that similar items purchased by the health department are available at online stores and other local distributors at cheaper rates. This not only puts the health officials involved in the procurement in the bad light but also brings to light how the purchases were done at very exorbitant rates, at a time when the state has been facing an economic crunch.

However, some have brought to light that several medical items, especially N95 masks, and PPE kits, which are available at low prices lack quality. Hence, most medical practitioners prefer triple-layered masks and other requirements that meet high safety standards, especially during the pandemic situation.

This is not the first time the money from state exchequer was spent lavishly by the lawmakers and bureaucrats and they are confident enough that there is no system exists that will make them answerable to all these expenditures, what is your view on this?    

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