Industry and trade bodies have come forward to ease the vaccine procurement hurdles faced by smaller hospitals and nursing homes.
Following a directive by the Centre, state governments have stopped supply of Covid-19 vaccine doses to private hospitals, asking them to procure it directly from manufacturers. The sudden policy change has created procurement hurdles for smaller hospitals and clinics, a key chain in healthcare services in rural areas and towns.
Many hospitals can’t place their orders failing to negotiate with the two Indian vaccine manufacturers.
In West Bengal, for instance, smaller towns are the worst affected.
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Obviously, manufacturers are giving priority to bulk orders placed by the governments or big corporate hospital chains, said a representative of a private nursing home in Siliguri.
There are about 1,600 smaller hospitals and nursing homes in the state. According to SK Alhajuddin, the chairman of Progressive Nursing Homes and Hospitals Association, the monthly requirement of all these units together would be about 8 lakh doses.
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A state health official said as per the Centre’s directive even the private hospitals’ association is barred from procuring vaccines, a move reportedly to prevent hoarding.
Hence, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Bengal Chamber of Commerce has decided form a consortium of these smaller hospitals and nursing homes to place bulk orders.
“We are aggregating the vaccine demands and requirements of these smaller hospitals and nursing homes to place bulk orders to ease the procurement process, which becomes complicated when so many small nursing homes individually place orders,” chairman of FICCI’s health committee Dr Alok Roy told The Federal.
Most nursing homes neither have the capital nor the infrastructure to buy and store more than 15,000 monthly. Many hospitals conveyed their ordeal at a meeting of representatives of the state government, nursing homes, private hospitals, chambers of commerce and vaccine manufacturers.
Due to supply crunch, these hospitals and nursing homes have been forced to suspend their vaccination drive affecting the overall inoculation programme in the state.
“I have been in regular touch with the Serum Institute of India (manufacturers of Covishield). But they are saying that it will take at least two months for them to cater to our demand,” said Dr Pinaki Mukherjee of the Kasturi Medical Centre Pvt Ltd at Joka in South Kolkata.
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“We are now forced to send our first-dose recipients to state-run centres for their second doses,” Dr Mukherjee added.
“Even the government and bigger private hospitals are not getting adequate supply of vaccines. Naturally, smaller nursing homes are facing more difficulties to get their supply,” said Ajay Chakraborty, West Bengal’s director of health services.
There is an increasing rush at the government-run vaccination centres at a time when the state government prioritised vaccinations of high-risk groups such as transporters, hawkers, vegetable and fish vendors and domestic helps.
The West Bengal government could roll out its phase III vaccination programme for those aged between 18 and 44 only from May 12.ICCI