Bir Hospital, which has been renting out space to private firms to run outpatient pharmacies on the hospital premises for over Rs 1 million per month, has said it has no money or manpower to run a low-cost pharmacy.
The hospital, which had even received Rs 2.5 million grant from the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) to start a low-cost pharmacy, some two years ago, said that the ministry has to provide additional amount for medicines and manpower.
“We do not have money to run a low-cost pharmacy at the hospital,” said Dr Swayam Prakash Pandit, director at the hospital. He said even the hospital development committee is not in a position to hire additional pharmacists.
The MoHP had provided Rs 2.5 million some two years ago to the hospital to start a low-cost pharmacy on direct instructions from the prime minister. Poor patients from across the country visit Bir Hospital as it provides quality service and is affordable.
The MoHP had also directed the hospital not to rent out space to private operators to run pharmacies on the hospital premises. However, instead of running its own low-cost pharmacy, the then hospital administration provided a separate room for a private operator to run a pharmacy.
“Even the MoHP cannot send manpower to run a low-cost pharmacy as the hospital does not have positions for pharmacists,” added director Pandit.
Bal Krishna Khakurel, director general (DG) at the Department of Drug Administration (DDA), said that instead of providing relief to patients, the private pharmacy operators have been fleecing them.
“Money is not a problem. It is a question of intent,” said DG Khakurel. About 1,500 employees including doctors are currently working at Bir Hospital. Of these, almost 50 percent of the employees are hired by the hospital development committee.
Each year, the MoHP provides a grant of over Rs 450 million to the hospital. Moreover, the hospital itself generates over Rs 250 million in revenue.
DG Khakurel said the officials are well aware that private pharmacy operators fleece poor patients. “They fleece poor patients, who come from across the country, in the hope of receiving treatment at affordable price,” he added. He said patients would get medicines at just 30 percent of the maximum retail price (MRP) if the hospital runs its own low-cost pharmacy.
Patients get up to 70 percent discount on medicines at pharmacies run by the TU Teaching Hospital and Manmohan Cardiothoracic Vascular and Transplant Center (MCVTC).