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‘Lack of planning led to shortage of drugs, equipment during COVID second wave in Kerala’

KMSCL directed to procure required articles to counter possible third wave

Health Minister Veena George on Monday asked the State-owned Kerala Medical Services Corporation (KMSCL) to procure enough drugs and equipment to counter a possible third wave of COVID-19. If the government had foreseen a similar crisis earlier this year, their current shortage in the ongoing second wave of the infection could have been avoided, some Health officials say.

Right now, around 3,000 people are in intensive care units and over 1,000 are in ventilators in various hospitals. There is, however, a severe shortage of sedation drugs, ventilator filters, surgical caps, and various vitamin tablets used for treatment in government medical college hospitals, which a majority of the patients depend on. KMSCL is reportedly unable to provide even half of the required demand.

According to sources in the Health Department, the government hospitals procure the drugs and other articles directly from KMSCL. Order for the purchase is normally given in advance. Hence, the order for the stock required at present should have been given before the beginning of the financial year itself. The corporation then procures the required drugs and other articles, and supplies them to hospitals.

A senior official, who did not wish to be named, told The Hindu that the department had not been prepared for the virulent second wave and even the gloves required for health workers had not been stocked up earlier. Various local bodies had set up first-line treatment centres across the State when cases peaked in the first wave. When the number of infected persons declined, most of them were closed.

The initial approach to vaccination too was lax. “When the Centre launched the vaccination drive in January, Kerala was one of those States which recorded low use. This continued till March,” the official said. While around 6.3 million doses were made available, only 3.4 million were utilised.

A source in the Government Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode, said that there had been a shortage of drugs and equipment even earlier. The second wave of COVID-19 and the subsequent rise in number of patients aggravated the situation. “There had been days when we had to treat the infected persons without personal protection equipment,” he added. Now, it is learnt that the government is planning to bring drugs and other articles from abroad to meet the emergency situation.

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