Rural healthcare: BHUs, RHCs face acute shortage of medicines

Paucity of medication often leads to scuffles between staff and patients.


Sehrish Wasif April 15, 2013
A female doctor said that earlier, her BHU used to get 600 bottles of 60 ml paracetamol syrup every month, but now the supply has been reduced to two 450 ml bottles. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Almost 98 basic health units (BHUs) and 10 rural health centres (RHCs) in rural Rawalpindi face acute shortages of medicine, affecting over 53 per cent of the region’s population.

“Every day, 40 to 60 patients visit the outpatient departments of these centres, but due to shortage of medicines, it becomes increasingly difficult to facilitate each one. This usually results in scuffles between the staff and the patients. To avoid such situations, we usually try to arrange medicines through our Zakat funds,” said doctors serving at various BHUs and RHCs in Rawalpindi district while talking to The Express Tribune.

One doctor who has been working at a BHU for the past decade, said shortages of medicines started five to six years ago, and became very severe in the past two years. Now, most centres do not even have common diarrhoea or cough medication.



A female doctor said that earlier, her BHU used to get 600 bottles of 60 ml (36 litres) paracetamol syrup every month, but now the supply has been reduced to two 450 ml bottles (0.9 litres), from which the staff makes 30 bottles of 30 ml in lose packing.

“There are only 100 bottles of Metronidazole — a popular antibiotic — available and 10 drips, which are insufficient for the patient load.” Besides this, antiemetic drugs — which are given for vomiting and nausea — are not available, along with a number of other essential drugs, she added.

The doctor said that the medical staff often purchases medicines on their own and have to pay the transport charges as well.

“The health department has not even compensated us for transport expenses,” she said.

Another doctor, while sharing the details, said that during the PML-Q’s rule of Punjab, the budget allocation for medicine was around Rs25 million, which fell to Rs4,000,000 during the PML-N regime.

“The situation at primary healthcare units worsened during the last election cycle, and instead of getting something, we lost all what we had earlier. Now poor patients have to go to urban centres for treatment and pay high transport fares,” he said.

District Health Officer Dr Khalid Randhawa said that though there was a cut in the health budget, so far there was no shortage of medicine at any of the primary healthcare centres. “If there is a shortage of funds, the health department can get them through a supplementary grant,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2013.

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