KATHMANDU, Dec 20: Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) Office has fallen far behind other local bodies in buying medicines for free distribution out of the budget allocated by the Ministry of Health (MoH).
MoH has allocated Rs 1.5 billion for all local bodies and provinces to buy medicines for distribution free of cost through government health facilities. Out of the total budget, the Department of Public Health Services (DoPHS) has already started the procurement of medicines for Rs 1.05 billion (70 percent) that will be distributed at the central level. The remaining 30 percent has been allocated for local level distribution.
DoPHS disbursed the free medicine budget to the local bodies right at the beginning of the current fiscal year which started six months ago. Most of the local bodies have already begun the process of procuring the medicines, said DoPHS officials. “However, KMC is yet to begin its own process,” they said.
KMC has demanded more than Rs 10 million for the procurement. But DoPHS has allocated only Rs 2 million, arguing that a large number of city dwellers go to private hospitals and clinics. It is only the economically disadvantaged that tend to visit public health facilities in Kathmandu Valley.
The government formed after the elections of 2008 decided to distribute certain items of medicine to needy people free of cost. Later, the government decided to distribute 72 such items through district hospitals, health centers and health posts .
However, the KMC has yet to procure the medicines, and government officials suspect an intention of misusing the funds at the end of the fiscal year.
Querried about this, Hari Kumar Shrestha, chief of the Public Health Division at KMC, said the central government does not provide any budget for buying the medicines. “The metropolis allocates about Rs 8 million annually for buying medical items including vaccines and condoms for distribution,” he added.
Pressed about the Rs 2 million allocated by DoPHS, Shrestha said they are yet to begin the process of procuring medicines with the government grant. “We have just forwarded the files,” he claimed.
According to KMC officials, nearly four million people live in the metropolis and an estimated 500,000 including squatters are below the poverty line.
KMC does not have data on the health facilities in the metropolitan city. “There are only 27 clinics operated by KMC,” said Shrestha. “We have just started collecting data on all hospitals, health centers and health posts in the city,” he added.
The effectiveness of the free distribution of medicines in KMC is widely questioned.