MOHP sitting on PMO's directive on fair-price dispensaries
KATHMANDU, May 2: The Ministry of Health and Population (MOHP) is yet to issue directives to public hospitals to run their own dispensary, a month after the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM) directed it to do so.
Secretary at the OPMCM Lila Mani Paudel had written to MOHP Secretary Dr Praveen Mishra on March 29 to make arrangements to ensure that patients get to buy medicines inside hospitals at low rates as in the case of Manmohan Cardiothoracic, Vascular and Transplant Center (MCVTC) that is located within the premises of Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH).
Republica had published a story on March 25 about how the dispensary run by the MCVTC has been selling medicines at less than half of the printed maximum retail price (MRP).
“We are working as per the letter by the Prime Minister´s Office,” Dr Mishra, the secretary at MOHP, had said on Wednesday. But he has been out of the country since then. Dr Mishra was not aware about the current status and instead referred this scribe to Chief Drug Administrator at the Ministry of Health and Population (MOHP) Bhupendra Bahadur Thapa who said that he had forwarded the file related to the issue to concerned authorities on April 8.
After his efforts to locate the file on Monday turned futile, Thapa admitted that he, too, was unaware about the progress being made on the issue. He, however, expressed hope that some work would start by the end of this fiscal year once the ministry takes decision. He revealed the Women, Children and Social Welfare Committee of the legislative parliament had also directed the ministry on January 22 to run co-operative pharmacies at public hospitals for the benefit of patients
The MCVTC is providing medicines at significantly lower rates and still making a profit of 15 per cent from its sales by, in the words of acting director of the institute Dr Bhagawan Koirala, giving up the huge profit margin that pharmaceutical companies offer to drug retailers.
“We have proposed that all public hospitals run their own dispensary in line with the ones at MCVTC and Patan Hospital by making a list of generic drugs and inviting bids from manufacturers to ensure that quality medicines are provided at very low rates,” Thapa explained.
Thapa revealed that Bir Hospital would run such a dispensary at first and it would later be implemented at other public hospitals as well. “The director of Bir Hospital has said that he is positive about running a dispensary at the hospital,” said Thapa.
Hospitals would not rent its shutters to pharmacies
Thapa said he has proposed that hospitals stop renting shutters within their premises to privately run pharmacies once they open their own dispensaries to avoid conflict of interest. Public hospitals are currently renting out their shutters to private pharmacies at a very high rate, sometimes going up to Rs 1 million per month.
The pharmacies on their part fleece patients to make up for the exorbitant rent and earn profit. Thapa revealed that the ministry is mulling giving the hospital shutters to cooperatives and other non-profit organizations at lower rates until the hospitals can start their own dispensaries.
Thapa was confident that even private hospitals can be persuaded to run fair-price dispensaries just like the public hospitals as suggested by secretary Paudel in his letter. “If we have a strong-willed government, we can force even the private hospitals to comply,” said Thapa.