Essential medicines to be available in districts soon

Published On: January 17, 2017 01:40 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

The government recently revised the rules allowing the districts health offices to purchase medicines worth up to Rs 500,000 without calling for tender. 

KATHMANDU, Jan 17: The process of supplying essential medicines to the districts is in the final stage after intervention by the Ministry of Health to ease the short supply of the drugs. 

The ministry has take steps to purchase the life-saving drugs which several districts lacked since a long time. The stocks of about one and a half dozen districts have run out, causing severe shortage of paracetamol in 14 districts while five districts are without iron pills and four districts without antibiotics since the last six months.

“Purchasing process of the essential medicines has already begun after we directed the districts to go ahead with the purchase,” said Pratap Paudel, advisor to Health Minister Gagan Thapa. “The medicines will be distributed to the districts in a week,” he claimed. “These medicines are being bought during emergency situation without following the procurement process.”

The government recently revised the rules allowing the districts health offices to purchase medicines worth up to Rs 500,000 without calling for tender, according to Paudel. 

“Moreover, each of the districts can now buy medicines worth Rs 5 million on the basis of close quotation as per the revised rule but the process takes some weeks,” he said, adding, “The districts were facing shortage of essential medicines for several months as the medicines were not purchased from the central level in the last two years.”

The Department of Health Services purchases medicines worth around Rs 800 million annually and distributes them to the districts. However, the DoHS has not purchased the medicines for the last two years. The DoHS started procurement process to purchase the essential medicines worth Rs 800,000 about three months ago. “These medicines will not be available before mid-April due to the long procurement process,” said the officials at the DoHS.

Additionally, the government has allocated Rs 390 million this year for the 75 districts to buy and supply essential medicines, according to the DoHS. “Besides Rs 390 million allotted for the districts, the ministry has disbursed some Rs 130 million recently for the districts to buy essential medicines,” said Paudel. “Either they should buy essential medicines worth Rs 500,000 or inform the center about shortage of drugs.” 

There are altogether 3,991 public hospitals, primary health centers and health posts across the country. According to the ministry, 103 medicines under 72 categories of essential medicines including paracetamol, iron tablets, antibiotics, vitamins, albendazole and oral rehydration solution (ORS) among others are provided from public health institutions free of cost to the needy people.

According to Paudel, district hospitals provide 70 items of medicines while primary health centers and health posts provide 58 and 36 medicines respectively free of cost.

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