Living in lockdown: No short supply of medicines; challenge is in delivery, say Pune distributors

Business is down by about 20% because almost 90% of doctors are not operating their clinics. People are not venturing out, said a committee member of chemists association of Pune.
Police personnel urge vendors around Mahatma Phule Market to shut roadside stands to avoid crowd amid Coronavirus scare Pune, India, on March 19, 2020.(Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)
Police personnel urge vendors around Mahatma Phule Market to shut roadside stands to avoid crowd amid Coronavirus scare Pune, India, on March 19, 2020.(Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)
Updated on Apr 27, 2020 06:14 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Pune | ByNamita Shibad

In spite of numerous hurdles on account of lockdown in the city, medical distributors have been ensuring that supply reaches pharmacies throughout the city.

According to Vijay Changeria, committee member chemists association of Pune, “Business is down by about 20% because almost 90% of doctors are not operating their clinics. People are not venturing out.”

Besides, the chemists have been asked to maintain a record of people who ask for paracetamol or cough and cold medicines. “This list we have to send to the police every evening and send the customer to a doctor,” he said.

When the lockdown was announced on March 25, there was panic, according to Vijay Rathi, owner of Anand Distributors, the largest in the city. Apart from the panic buying in the initial period, Rathi had to deal with reduced manpower as 50% of my staff didn’t turn up for work.

On a normal day, Anand Distributors sees about 300 customers at the godown.

“There was chaos for about two weeks. Customers would crowd at our store since there weren’t enough delivery boys. My staff too was at half strength. It took much longer to pack an order. Social distancing was very hard to maintain,” he said

Finally, a system was introduced whereby days were fixed for delivery to certain areas. While buyers could come from any area on Mondays to purchase emergency medicines, Tuesdays were allotted to Deccan, Aundh, Senapati Bapat road and Wednesday for Katraj, Bibvewadi, and so on.

The distributor provided safety gear to his staff to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection.

Online suppliers to pharmacies like Biddano did not have a problem with staff shortage, said Talha Shaikh founder of the firm. However, getting police passes became difficult, especially during the extended phase of the lockdown, he said.

Biddano has 4,000 pharmacies and over 200 hospitals as their customers. Almost 85% of their delivery executives use mobikes and they have about 30 tempos.

PharmaRack another online platform with about 2,000 pharmacies and about 200 distributors in Pune on its platform faced a problem of getting permissions in place. Says Amit Backliwal co-founder, “It’s the last mile delivery that is an issue. For us the challenge is not so much the people to deliver the medicines but the passes they need to do the work. This is still a very cumbersome process. You have to go on the site, you get rejected, you apply again and you go through this rigmarole three to four times. Moreover, every pass is individual. It would be infinitely better if they gave it to an organisation instead.”

Vinay Baldawa, an authorised dealer for medical equipment focusing mainly on dialysis consumables and machines, said, “A renal failure person has to undergo dialysis twice or thrice a week. If I cannot supply the consumables to the hospitals where they do it, their lives are at serious risk. So, Covid or no Covid, we have to deliver.”

His deliveries have, however, been quite difficult, primarily because of labour shortage.

Distributors said there is no shortage of stocks. “We have enough stocks for at least three to four months” said Rathi.

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