Lack of doctors at metropolis’ health clinics puts medicine stocks at perilKathmandu City Office is forced to halt the hiring process for health workers, including doctors, nurses, due to budget freeze.
“We can’t give these medicines to patients without a doctor’s prescription,” Padam Kumari Lohani, a senior nursing staff at the clinic, told the Post. “And, we currently don’t have doctors at the clinic to prescribe medicines.”
Nali Bajracharya, a staff serving at the central medicine store of the metropolis, said that her store also has essential medicines but most of them are nearing their expiry dates.
The government had allocated Rs20 million to Kathmandu Metropolitan City in the fiscal year 2018/019 and Rs30 million in 2017/018 for urban health clinics and hiring of doctors and health workers.
“We couldn’t start the hiring process for fiscal year 2018/019 on time and therefore the allocated budget was frozen,” said Bajracharya. “Now, we have completed the process but the government has cancelled the budget which has forced us to stop the hiring process.”
More than 1,000 health workers, including doctors, had sat for the examination conducted by the Kathmandu Metropolitan City about two months ago. But Narendra Bajracharya, chief of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s Health Department, said that his office had to suspend the examination results after the government cancelled the budget.
The metropolis had planned to hire 44 health workers, including doctors, nurses, health assistants, auxiliary health workers, auxiliary nurse midwives, and lab technicians, and deploy them at various urban clinics. But the budget freeze has halted the hiring process.
For the fiscal year 2018/19, Kathmandu Metropolitan City had procured essential medicines for communicable and non-communicable diseases worth Rs10 million to be distributed to patients through urban health clinics and central stores.
The metropolis’ health department runs urban health clinics at 27 out of the total 32 wards. Hundreds of poor patients residing in urban slums such as daily wage labourers visit these clinics.
“Dozens of patients from the metropolis’ Ward 16 visit the clinic every day for free treatment and medicines. But, as these clinics are without doctors, patients return empty-handed,” said Lohani, adding that the patients are then forced to visit private clinics and buy medicines from private dispensaries.
Bajracharya said that most of these clinics run by the metropolis lacked manpower. They are supposed to be equipped to treat tuberculosis, run immunisation drives, family planning and counselling services, and examine the nutrition status of children. However, at present, the clinics run none of these services.
The Health Department of the metropolis said that it would not procure new medicines in the current fiscal year. As most of the medicines procured in the last fiscal year lie unused, the department would soon have to get rid of them.
Meanwhile, spokesperson for Kathmandu Metropolitan City Ishwor Man Dongol said that this city office could not hire doctors and other health staff until the decision is included in the metropolis’ budget and endorsed by its executive body.
“We have directed our Health Department chief to coordinate with the Health Ministry to release the budget at the earliest,” said Dongol.
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