Two people have reportedly died in an effort to get to the cardiology OPD on the second floor of the local Hamidia Hospital. The OPD is located on the second floor. The only available lift has been non-functional for the last year and a half. It is reported to be three decades old and none came for entering into a service contract as the parts of the lift are now not available. Non-availability of the lift has been reported off and on in the newspapers. The situation was, however, not remedied either by the hospital administration or by the government. Even the staff unions have protested about it.
Under the current rules and regulations the Hospital is apparently unable to replace the lift with a new one as the head of the administration does not have adequate financial powers. The matter was, therefore, referred to the Health Department of the state government which referred the matter to the Public Works Department (PWD). The PWD, after taking its own time, made a requisition of Rs. 1 crore for replacement of the lift. Naturally, it was considered excessive and was referred back for a reasonable estimate. Now, it seems, it has asked for Rs. 65 Lakhs which too is very excessive unless the estimate is for provision of around half a dozen lifts.
On Googling the matter I found websites offering a stretcher lift in Rs. 8.5 lakhs. Everyone knows that officers of PWD are corrupt but this is like daylight robbery. In this game being played between the PWD and Health Department the patients are being made to suffer – indeed, in some cases they have even died. This is about as callous as it can get. The Health Department should have reported for the irresponsible action to the higher authorities of the official who forwarded the estimate of Rs. 1 crore and thus delaying the entire process of procurement.
Powers of procurement are not decentralized generally for fear, inter alia, of corruption. But that has not helped matters as the venue of corruption has only shifted elsewhere, i.e. at the higher level, besides enhancing the bureaucratic processes. At the higher level the cut of various officials not only raises the price of the stuff to be procured, it also causes delay in procurement. The Superintendent of the Hospital is a senior enough official trained in this kind of work. Devolution of such powers to him for such petty purposes will help in proper functioning of the hospital and the patients, too, will be better off.
Perhaps, the government could think of a fresh bit of devolution of financial powers. With inflation procurement of material or equipment costing in six digits is no longer a big deal and the Hospital Superintendent should be empowered to procure the same with the regular applicable safeguards. This will be in the interest of patients for whom, after all, the hospital is being run.
*Photo of public space in front of registration counter is from internet