Punjab to ask private hospitals to return Covid-19 vaccines after criticism
Punjab will have private hospitals return the Covaxin doses sold to them at a higher rate amid much criticism over the move, officials aware of the matter said and added state health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu has issued directions in this regard and also ordered a probe.
Principal Secretary (health) Hussain Lal confirmed the move but did not comment further.
HT on Thursday reported how the state government was selling the Covaxin bought for ₹400 a dose to private hospitals for ₹1,060 a dose. The hospitals were, in turn, administering the vaccines for ₹1,560 a dose.
The authorities earlier justified the move, with an official saying that it was “only a one-time measure”.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar on Friday accused the Punjab government of profiteering by selling Covid-19 vaccines to the public “at a premium” and to private hospitals “at a profit”. In a video message, Javadekar alleged 140,000 doses of Covaxin were sold to the state for ₹400 per dose. He added they were then sold to about 20 private hospitals for as much as ₹1,000 per dose. “The private hospitals are selling these doses to the people for ₹1,500 in turn,” he alleged.
“The whole state is affected by the pandemic. However, vaccine management is poor, and the government has not even paid attention to testing. For the last three days, the entire government machinery is in Delhi… who is going to look after the state?”
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has been in Delhi to meet a three-member party panel formed to resolve infighting in the ruling Congress. A section of leaders in the Congress is believed to be unwilling to contest next year’s assembly election under Singh’s leadership.
“For their own internal politics, they are ignoring the people of Punjab. This is a big sin being committed by Congress. Rahul Gandhi, instead of giving lectures to others, should first ensure that work is done being properly in the state,” Javadekar said.
Union minister Anurag Thakur, Shiromani Akali Dal leaders Sukhbir Badal, Harsimrat Kaur Badal also hit out at the Punjab government for profiteering from the pandemic.
Sukhbir Singh Badal on Thursday demanded a high court-monitored probe into the manner in which the Congress government “is creating an artificial shortage of vaccines for the common man by selling doses at a hefty profit to private hospitals.”
“A case should be registered against state health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu for diverting vaccines meant for the common man to private institutions,” Sukhbir said.