Sunita Kumari, 45, is admitted to the multi-speciality Govind Ballabh Pant Hospital near Delhi Gate and her family has spent Rs 1,000 on medicines to treat her fits in less than two weeks.
“Only one of the medicines prescribed was available at the hospital,” said her daughter Manisha, 17. One of the drugs prescribed was the antidepressant sertraline, the other was insulin. Both were not available at the hospital dispensary.
Under Delhi’s Drug Policy, “all the essential drugs needed for health care should be available at all times at all the health facilities of the state.” This, however, is exception than norm.
More than 400 medicines and injections — including pain medication, antibiotics, anaesthetics, hormonal pills, vitamins and minerals — are among the essential medicines procured by the Central Procurement Agency (CPA) for the city’s hospitals. “There are times when there is so much demand for a particular medicine that we run out of stock. At other times, the medicines are just not available,” said a chemist at the hospital dispensary.
Medicines such as sorbitrate and mononitrate prescribed to people with heart disease to dilate blood vessels, alprazolam to treat anxiety disorders, and propranolol to treat high blood pressure were just some CPA-supplied medicines that have not been available at the hospital for the past three months.
Ramipril, a medicine for treating highblood pressure, furosemide/spironolactone to treat hypertension and cardiac failure, and rosuvastatin that lowers the risk of heart attack are some medicines directly acquired by the hospital but have been unavailable for the past two months.
“After we send in our requirements, the CPA has to provide medicines within 75 days, but there are times when the agency is not able to deliver on time or the stocks get over before the next lot comes in. Even when the hospital procures medicines directly, 60 days are needed for the tendering process and procurement. So, we always have shortage of some medicine or the other,” said Dr SP Jayant, medical superintendent, GB Pant Hospital.
The wait for a bed almost killed Sunita Devi’s husband, Mukesh Kumar, 45, who was being treated for a brain tumour. He is now on the ventilator.
The tumour was diagnosed around six months ago and after all the tests were done, Mukesh had to wait for three months to get a bed despite GB Pant being a large 714-bed hospital.
Initially, Aligarh-resident Sunita and her husband used to commute by train for each visit. “He was well and good. He was walking and eating on his own before. Then his condition deteriorated,” she said. For two months now, she has had to book a car to bring him to the hospital. “He slowly stopped eating and is now too weak to walk,” said Sunita.The shortage is acute in the cardiology department. Each year, 18,000 patients vie for the department’s 145 beds. In 2014, there were 122 cardiology patients per bed, which means each patient cannot occupy a bed for more than three days.
Touts run a flourishing trade, offering beds for procedures such as angioplasty — a procedure done to prop open obstructed arteries or veins — for Rs 10,000. “To my knowledge, my staff is not involved in such businesses. If I find out about any such incident, the person involved will be punished,” says Dr Jayant.
Nevertheless, he has taken precautions. “I have issued a notification that all staff members should be present only at their duty location and any unwarranted movement with unknown people will be questioned,” said Dr Jayant.
The staff is not always where they are supposed to be and if they are, they are often not doing their job well, claim patients.
“My mother started getting fits every 15 minutes and I kept calling the nurse, but they always took a long time to come,” said Manisha, who is accompanying her mother admitted to the department of psychiatry. Nurses claim they are stretched thin because of staff shortage. “Each patient demands attention and we cannot attend to someone immediately because we have to look after many patients,” says Anita Dhosiwal, a staff nurse.
Full coverage: Delhi's sick hospitals