By bappaditya paul
West Bengal’s top dental college ~ the R Ahmed Dental College and Hospital in Kolkata ~ is making patients buy surgical items and medicines from outside that are supposed to be provided for free. Be it a disposable syringe to IOPA X-ray film, Gutta-Percha / Paper Points or painkillers, the state’s flagship dental college is making patients buy almost everything that are required to treat tooth ailments.
Interns and house staff, who mostly attend to patients in the outpatient department, maintain that they have no choice but to ask people buy surgical items and medicines from outside as these are scarcely supplied by the hospital authorities.
“Every patient is required to buy these items from outside; it is not that we make a distinction or do have a choice to do so. I am not privy whether the government has stopped supplying the items or the issue is something else,” said a final year intern, who is not being named as this reporter spoke to him as a patient. Be it the patients or the dentists at the hospital, nobody finds anything surprising in this. “This is the way things have been going on here for sometime now,” said a senior dentist. Worse, the one or two items such as Glass Ionomer Cement (a dental restorative material used for dental fillings), which the hospital offers on patients for free, often run out of stock for weeks altogether without anyone bothering at all. For example, the Endodontics wing of the hospital housed in room no 3A, has ran out of GI Cement since 6 November, making several patients return disappointed everyday.
The hospital superintendent Dr Rahul Samanta expressed “shock” when told that patients were being made to buy surgical items and medicines from outside. “Is it so? This should not be the case as IOPA X-ray films and syringes etc are always being supplied to the departments. I will look into the matter,” said the superintendent whose office chamber is housed just one floor below the OPD treatment rooms. As regards non-availability of GI Cement, Dr Samanta maintained that there have been some hiccups in procurement of some items due to tender related issues. “The government has made e-tender mandatory for all procurements but since our staff are yet to be properly trained into this, we are continuing by extending the old manual tenders. Due to this, some hiccups in supply is taking place recently,” he said. “We have a purchase committee in place headed by a senior doctor. He should be in a position to explain further.”
When contacted, principal secretary of the state health department, Mr Malay Kumar De, said that there should not be dearth of any treatment items at R Ahmed Dental College as the government was providing it sufficient funds.
“These days, we do not supply anything centrally and rather the hospitals are allotted funds to procure medicine and other items according to their need. In fact to reduce time, a procurement price for each item is fixed by us centrally and there are also empaneled suppliers. If a hospital falls short of funds, they write to us and additional money is released very expeditiously,” Mr De said. “I will definitely probe why the dental college is not providing medical items to patients for free.”
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 13 November 2014.)