Fleecing patients: PGI must stop auctioning drugstores

  • Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Aug 04, 2014 22:59 IST

PGI is neglecting have-nots
The auction of chemist shops may have fetched huge earnings for them, but PGIMER authorities have forgotten their duty towards the poor despite being in a welfare state such as ours. Shutting down pharmacies offering 57% discount is not good. People of all backgrounds seek treatment from PGIMER: some of these patients can afford expensive treatments, while others may not. There should, therefore, be at least one shop offering medicines at discounted rates for the have-nots.
DP Gautam, Chandigarh

Profit must not be PGIMER’s sole motive
Renting out pharmacies at PGIMER through auctions will result in the chemists shifting their monetary burden on the poor. Since chemists seek a return of their investment, the sale of spurious medicines cannot be ruled out. PGIMER is a public institution; profit, therefore, must not be its only motive. The poor opt for PGIMER because of its affordable rates. A spike in the cost of treatment will defeat its main aim: to serve the public. Administration should not favour the lobby of affluent chemists and doctors linked to pharmaceutical firms.
Flying Officer Jaswant Singh (Retd), SAS Nagar

Introduce e-tendering of pharmacies for transparency
The present system of auctioning of pharmacies within PGIMER is flawed and deficient as it leaves many chinks that bidders can manipulate. It needs to be replaced with e-tendering to make it more transparent. It should be mandatory for a bidder to give his professional track record to prove his credibility, besides certifying that he has not pooled in with others and that he will supply only genuine medicines strictly according to prescription and within the expiry date. Over charging and selling spurious medicines amounts to a criminal offence for which necessary provision may be incorporated in the IPC. The punishment to be awarded may be determined by the victim or his kin, which could be challenged in the competent court. Life and not revenue should be the deciding criteria before PGI.
JS Jaspal, Chandigarh

‘Minimal rent, maximum discount’ should be adopted
It’s a shame that PGIMER is charging huge rent for chemist shops. The burden of this will directly fall on patients. I feel a model in which rent is minimal and maximum discount is ideal. PGIMER’s shop offering a 55% discount failed due to the unrealistic markdown. I feel that 30% would be more realistic.
Pankaj Bansal, Chandigarh

Allotting shops must be contingent on discounts
The noble aim of government hospitals is to provide cheap medical aid to the citizens and not earn revenue. That is the reason there are nominal charges of `10 for registration for six months, whereas the fee charged by private practitioners is about `250 per visit. Getting high rents from medical shops at PGIMER through a process of auctions, thereby increasing the prices of medicines, defeat the very purpose of such hospitals. Therefore, shops must be allotted only on the condition of providing medicines at discounted rates. To cope with the rush of patients, the number of shops also needs to be doubled.
Joginder Sodhi, via email

Central government must intervene in the issue
PGIMER was established to provide the best treatment at the most affordable rates. PGIMER’s auctioning of pharmacies on its premises like various state governments auctioning the liquor vends, aimed only at maximising revenue. Such practices may, in turn, result in chemists indulging in malpractices to ensure returns. Union health minister Harsh Wardhan Gupta must intervene in the issue. Chemist shops in the PGIMER’s premises must be rented out for discount on MRP formula rather than ‘higher rent’ for the interests of public.
Capt Amar Jeet Kumar, SAS Nagar

Earning more than 10% profits should not be allowed
PGIMER administration and chemist shops are in collusion to manipulate people. Public institutions such as PGI should not grant licences to chemists who fleece the public for profits. Why does the institution rent out shops to chemists earning 30% to 200% profits by indulging in malpractices such as selling medicines at inflated rates? Chemists who earn more than 10% profits should not be allowed to rent shops at PGI. The hospital administration must watch out for the interest of the public.
Sat Pal Kansal, Chandigarh

Shops should be auctioned based on highest discount
PGIMER is one such institution in the north which has been working for a noble cause for decades and has been of service to all sections of society. Patients from all strata of society walk in to this institution with great hopes. For the poor, discount on medicines is a big issue. In lieu of this, it is correct to say that PGI should stop auctioning shops on the basis of highest rent but should auction them on the basis of highest discounts and then monitor its proper implementation as well.
Ranju, Chandigarh

PGI should maintain its own medical stores
There are about 20 chemists on PGI premises and all are being run by private parties and pay rent to PGI, thus fleecing patients on the pretext of offering 15% discount on branded medicines and 30% discount on surgical items and generic medicines. To avoid this, may I ask the PGI authorities what is the use of this discount when crores are pocketed by shopkeepers annually. PGI’s motive behind auctioning shops at the highest rates is to earn maximum. Ultimately, patients are the sufferers. To prevent all this, why does PGI not open its own medical stores? Purchasing medicines directly from manufacturers and selling them at no profit or no loss will facilitate a position where there will be no discount. This will not only enhance the income of PGI, but patients will also be saved from being exploited by the private chemists.
SK Khosla, Chandigarh

Ensure 50-60% discount on generic medicine
The institution’s first priority should be to ensure sale of medicines at an economical rate to patients. It should make 50-60% discount mandatory on generic medicines (chemist margin being 80-85%) and 15% discount mandatory on branded medicines (chemist margin being 20%). After that, whatever chemists want to share from their profits, should be offered as rent to PGI. The price of generics should be monitored by the PGI cell. It should not be more than the price of best-selling branded medicines. The benefit of 50-60% discount on generics will be beneficial to patients only if doctors prescribe medicines by their salt names and not the brand name.
Sanjay Singhal, Chandigarh

Let shops be run by the medical board
If somebody is paying a monthly rent of `1.75 crore for a shop in PGIMER, he will certainly get double that amount for profit. The medicines are being sold like hot cakes. Expensive medicines are recommended medicines even when medicines with the same properties are cheaper. Auctioning shops must be stopped and they must be run by the medical board or an NGO. With profit no longer a motive, a discount on the MRPs of medicines will be certain.
Opinder kaur Sekhon, Chandigarh

Put patients’ interest first
I fully endorse the proposal that the PGIMER should junk the policy of auctioning the shops and opt for discount on MRP formula for the greater good. A doctor should be seen as a God, and a hospital a temple, by the common man. Here, the most prestigious medical institute of the region, which is government-run, is inclined towards profit making at the cost of the health of its patients. It is strongly recommended that the PGIMER should stop making a business of renting out chemist shops. The authorities also need to strictly monitor the functioning of these chemist shops so that the there is no compromise on quality.
Colonel RD Singh (Retd), Ambala Cantt

Adopt fair rent policy
The policy of renting out chemists shops at PGIMER on the basis of auction goes against the social objective of providing affordable or free healthcare to the citizens. It may be filling up the coffers of the hospital or the government but it is at the expense of the common man as it is the patient who has to ultimately bear the brunt of it. Chemists who have to pay heavy rentals and also give heavy discounts on MRP will be compelled to resort to unfair practices or supply poor quality drugs to make up their losses. Fair rent policy, rather than market or auction-based rent, needs to be adopted if social objective is to be met.
DS Banati, SAS Nagar

Patients feel cheated
Leasing out chemist shops to the highest bidder compels shop owners who hire the shops at high rates to charge patients high rates. They can’t offer discount to the patients as they have to run their business and earn their livelihoods. PGI is a ray of hope to patients who can’t afford private treatment. However, when they see the high rates charged, they feel cheated.
Sargun Babuta, via email

Auctioning against concept of affordable healthcare
PGIMER is widely considered to be a prestigious institution providing advanced healthcare to the people of the vast region of North India. The very idea of generating income through auction of chemist shop seems to be against the fundamental cause of providing affordable healthcare. Keeping in view the state’s prime responsibility of providing low cost healthcare facility to every citizen, it is advisable to auction the chemist shops contracts based on maximum discount of medicines rather than the rentals.
Vikram Arora, Chandigarh

PGIMER should adopt apro-citizen policy on shops
The malpractice of auctioning medical shops at the PGIMER has lent a bad name to the institution. Higher rentals of medical stores are recovered by charging more for medicines. Bidders get hefty discounts from manufacturers of the drugs. Even generic equivalents of the medicines which people take to be decently priced have high markups. In such a scenario, patients have no choice than to buy these overpriced drugs, thereby escalating the cost of their treatment. Doctors, staff and authorities of the institution are involved in the act and get a good commission. An effective and pro-citizen policy must be made to ensure that the chemists sell drugs without the burden of high rentals.
Vikas Kamboj, via email

PGI earning revenue at patients’ expense
First of all, we need to understand how this arrangement, which PGIMER administration claims will make medicines available at cheap rates, affects patients. The arrangement leaves patients at the mercy of the chemist: he can be given generics of the prescribed brand from any company. Most of the time, the generics given by chemists are drugs they prepare themselves and are thus of dubious quality. Moreover, they charge higher than the MRP of the original medicines, thus fooling patients. Thus, PGIMER’s revenue is at the expense of its patients.
Shashi, via email

Patients being fleeced at PGI
A mind-boggling `3 lakh rent per day for a chemist shop at PGI is strange at a time when the Punjab government is providing atta at `4 per kg for the poor is certainly strange. While chemists, being traders, may be shrewd black-marketers but why are the philanthropic PGI authorities conniving with them in this racket? The other day, an article in a daily revealed that 10 tablet wrapper sold by a company to chemists for `3.50 had an MRP of `85. One can imagine what a 57% discount on an inflated MRP would mean. Strangely, despite knowing about such dubious games, the public chooses to remain silent.
MPS Chadha, SAS Nagar

Chemist shops at PGIMER must be discontinued
Auctioning has become at a rat race, be it PGIMER’s auction for chemists shop, VVIP registration numbers for vehicles, hospitals, canteen tenders or auctioning for dismantling old ships. Such auctions take a lot of work, which affect the hospital’s regular functioning. Since medicines purchased from the hospital chemist are available at lesser prices in the market, chemist shops in the hospital should be discontinued.
Sham Lal Khera, Chandigarh

Shops at PGI should be allotted on rotation basis
PGIMER must rent out shops on the condition that chemist shops will provide genuine medicines and other essential material at a proper price.. It is true that auction of shops add to patients burden and make the treatment beyond their reach. This practice must, therefore, be discontinued and shops should be allotted on rotation to various city chemists.
Manjinder Pal Singh, SAS Nagar

Keep a check on the doctor-chemist nexus
Chemists fill their own coffers in the name of public good. Had it not been a lucrative business, would bidders have offered such whopping sums as rents for a medical store? Their philanthropic attitude and discounted rates are a mere camouflage for PGIMER authorities to make money. Only nominal rates must be charged and high discounts must be offered. A regular vigil must be maintained to check the doctor-chemist nexus.
Ritika Kamboj, SAS Nagar

PGI can stock centrally-purchased medicines
PGI can emulate the Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation, in which purchase of medicines is centrally controlled and the rates are the cheapest in the entire country. PGI can run stores at which centrally-purchased items can be sold at a nominal price. Or it can have a look at this clinically and find a long-term solution.
Sanjiv Tewari, Panchkula

PGI must put a cap on rent
It is undeniable that ‘highest bidder’ policy for renting shops is not good. However, no institution can run with revenue. Therefore, instead of shutting down such shops, some control must be exercised so that they can yield a decent income. Simultaneously, the authorities, while bestowing a licence to chemists, should limit their revenue. Those stretching it beyond must be debarred.
Poonam Kamboj, Sirsa

Prescribe generic drugs
Doctors do not prescribe generic drugs as they are busy promoting expensive branded drugs and get commission for doing so. This is an unethical practice as it puts immense burden on the already suffering patients. This practice must be stopped immediately and doctors found violating the same must be fined. Shops at PGI must be rented on basis of discounts on the MRP of medicines. To do away with this problem, the Jan Aushadhi stores must have complete stock of drugs so people don’t have to buy branded drugs.
Vineet Kapoor, Panchkula

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