Despite the Supreme Court (SC) order to run its own dispensary, Bir Hospital is all set to let out the space at its premises set aside for pharmacies to a private firm for Rs 1.575 million per month.
The hospital, which has been earning Rs 1.63 million per month in rent from pharmacies, said a private company that has agreed to operate the pharmacy at the hospital will pay Rs 1.575 million per month from the upcoming fiscal year.
“The tender process has been completed. We have called the private pharmacy operator to sign the contract,” Dr Swyam Prakash Pandit, director at the hospital, said.
Poor patients from across the country visit Bir Hospital for quality care at reasonable price. Doctors from hospitals across the country, too, refer complicated cases to the hospital, which is a national referral center.
However, private pharmacy operators have long been known to fleece poor patients charging high price for medicines as they scramble to pay the costly rent as well as maximize profits.
Officials at the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) have neither taken steps to prevent the hospital from allowing private medical shops at its premises nor ending the practice of charging customers high price for medicines.
The SC on Sunday issued the interim order asking the hospital not to rent out space to private firms to run pharmacies at the hospital premises. The court has ordered the Department of Health Services (DoHS) and the MoHP to restrict hospitals from renting out space to private pharmacies. The court has also urged them to ensure that all hospitals run their own pharmacies and do not charge anything for medicines listed as free by the government.
Officials at Bir Hospital said on Monday that they are yet to get the copy of the SC verdict.
Director Pandit said that the hospital has no money or manpower to run a pharmacy and that it can run its own dispensary only if the MoHP provided the budget and manpower to run it. Incidentally, some two years ago, the MoHP had provided Rs 2.5 million to the hospital to start its own pharmacy, but it failed to do so.
Now, the hospital administration is moving ahead with its plan to rent out the space for medical shops to a private firm for three years.
Mahendra Giri, chief of the hospital’s procurement unit, said, “Private pharmacy operators have to pay four month’s rent in advance to the hospital.”
According to Giri, any one could run a medicine shop at the hospital, but establish pharmacy operators definitely have an advantage.
“It is a question of intent,” said Bal Krishna Khakurel, director general (DG) at the Department of Drug Administration (DDA), said. Khakurel said patients would get medicines juts at 30 percent of the maximum retail price (MRP) if the hospital runs its own low-cost pharmacy.
DG Khakurel said that both the patients as well as the hospital will benefit if the hospital runs its own pharmacy.
The TU Teaching Hospital and Manmohan Cardiothoracic Vascular and Transplant Center (MCVTC) have already been providing medicines at less than half the printed maximum retail price (MRP) through their pharmacies.