Drug shortage: Kerala’s health sector could collapse under a third wave of COVID-19

Kannur: Kerala’s health sector is likely to face a major crisis if a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hits as government hospitals in the state face an acute shortage of medicines and equipment.

Numerous irregularities in purchases previously made by Kerala Medical Services Corporation Limited (KMSCL) under the guise of measures to prevent the COVID-19 containment have led to the current dire situation. After the scam came to light, senior health authorities were reluctant to clear files on drug purchases, creating the shortage.

In Kannur district, there is already a scarcity of expensive anti-COVID-19 drugs such as monoclonal antibodies and remdesivir. Incidentally, one of the first patients affected by the shortage is former state health minister KK Shailaja, who is now being admitted to Pariyaram Medical College Hospital after testing positive for the virus.

After doctors at Pariyaram Hospital failed to obtain monoclonal antibodies for Shailaja from Kannur, they were forced to source the drug from outside the district. This drug is administered to COVID-19 patients suffering from respiratory and heart diseases and conditions such as hypertension and diabetes to prevent them from falling into a critical condition.

Expensive medicines out of stock
At a recent meeting attended by the Minister of Health and the First Secretary, the issue of the shortage of monoclonal antibodies was raised. However, no decision was made to make sufficient purchases of the drug, which costs Rs 1.20 lakh per vial. Likewise, rabies serum and intradermal rabies vaccine are also out of stock in several districts.

COVID brigade disbanded
Yet another cause for concern as a new wave of the pandemic looms over the state is the absence of the COVID brigade, which has been disbanded. Incidentally, the government does not intend to reactivate for the brigade.

In addition, during the first and second wave of the pandemic, hospitals were allowed to make purchases related to COVID-19 and file the bills for reimbursement.

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