Taking suo motu notice of an Hindustan Times report (June 20) that highlighted the plight of the rural populace due to discontinued supply of medicines in dispensaries, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) has asked the state rural development and panchayat department to file a reply within four weeks.
Rural dispensaries functional under the department have failed to receive the supply of medicines for the past 18 months.
Despite repeated reminders from rural medical officers working in these dispensaries, the state government has done little to make provision for even basic medicines such as antidiabetics, antiallergics, analgesics, antibiotics and iron supplements, mandatory for primary health services.
Speaking to HT, PSHRC member PS Grewal confirmed that a notice had been issued to the rural development and panchayat department.
“The next move will be made following the department’s reply,” he said.
When 1,186 dispensaries were shifted from the department of health and family welfare to the rural development and panchayat department in 2006, the government had promised to provide medicines worth Rs. 7,500 every month to each dispensary.
This is the second consecutive summer when rural dispensaries have failed to even get the supply of the oral rehydration solution (ORS), essential to deal with emergencies wherein patients are suffering from dehydration following acute diarrhoea or gastroenteritis.
Of the long list of 60 medicines, the only tablet available at some dispensaries is paracetamol.
Moreover, doctors working in these dispensaries, despite holding the MBBS degree, are upset that rural development minister Sikander Singh Maluka has also authorised block development and panchayat officers to check rural dispensaries.
Earlier, only officials from the department of health and family welfare had the powers to conduct checks on rural medical officers (RMOs).
When contacted, Dr Aslam Parvez, president of the Rural Medical Services Association (RMSA), Punjab, said, “We are tired of taking up the issue (discontinued supply of medicines) with the department for the past more than a year, but they have not redressed it. Thus, we gave decided to observe July 1 (doctor’s day) as a black day and will proceed on an indefinite strike against the callous attitude of the government towards the rural populace.”
Dr Parvez said the RMSA would have its general body meeting in Ludhiana in the second week of July, which will be followed by the submission of resignations en masse.