Pune: Large hospitals in a fix over vaccine purchase orders after announcement on centralised procurement

According to the revised system that would be operational from June 21, at least 25 per cent procurement will be kept open for the private sector.

Large hospitals in the city are in a fix over the purchase orders they have placed with manufacturers for the Covid-19 vaccine after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement about reverting to the system of centralised procurement of vaccines.

According to the revised system that would be operational from June 21, at least 25 per cent procurement will be kept open for the private sector. There will also be a cap of Rs 150 on the amount private hospitals can charge over the cost of the purchase from the manufacturer. Private facilities had fixed a rate of Rs 900 for a single shot of Covishield and Rs 1,200 for Covaxin.

Several hospital owners are upset at the manner in which these decisions are taken “arbitrarily”. Right from capping the rate for treatment to treat Covid-19, and for surgeries for patients with mucormycosis and now vaccines, private hospitals have not had much of a say, said authorities at various hospitals.

The Association of Hospitals in Pune will meet on Tuesday to decide the way forward, said Bomi Bhote, chairman of the association.

Bhote, who is the CEO of Ruby Hall Clinic, said that hospital managements will now have a re-think on purchasing large volume of doses.

“We have already purchased 50,000 doses and also placed another order for four-and-a-half lakh doses. With new notifications coming in daily, it is uncertain as to how much the hospital can bear the overhead costs,” he said. The association members will meet on Tuesday and discuss this issue, Bhote said.

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At Jehangir Hospital, CEO Vinod Sawantwadkar also pointed out that instead of aggressively taking up vaccination drives, the private sector may just get discouraged with these new directives. “Every now and then, there are some different directives and then management of the vaccination process can become difficult. We can plan better if we know what is in store for the next six months. Just when we were streamlining the process and settling down, there are new directives. We were in talks with the Serum Institute of India for procuring a huge quantity of vaccines. But after the initial purchase of 50,000 vaccine doses this May, I will now prefer to wait,” said Sawantwadkar.

“There are additional costs for on-site vaccinations. We have made commitments with corporate firms and to deliver the vaccines and other details we have had to hire personnel, such as data entry operators and others. All these additional costs are being borne by private hospitals,” said Dr H K Sale, executive director at Noble Hospital.

“We have invested at least Rs 3.5 crore in vaccines and had asked for another one lakh doses. I have to do another estimate and check all the overhead expenditure before going ahead with the purchase,” Dr Sale said.

“As a social commitment to vaccinate more and more people, there are separate counters in the hospital… but visiting corporate houses and conducting on-site vaccinations will be unaffordable,” said Dr Sale.

Dr J Ravindranath, managing director at Poona Hospital, said they had placed an order for more vaccines but now it will be “wait and watch”.

However, a survey by LocalCircles, a community social media platform that enables citizens and small businesses to escalate issues for policy and enforcement interventions, found that in order to make sure that there is uniform pricing in the Covid vaccine, citizens wanted the central government to make it mandatory for manufacturers to publish MRPs on each Covid vaccine vial pack. This has the support of 83 per cent of citizens surveyed by LocalCircles, said founder Sachin Taparia.

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