Reports have been pouring in of shortages of basic medicines available for free through 675 health and 127 sub-health posts across the country. The government has since Jan 15 been handing out 32 free medicines at health posts and 22 medicines at sub-health posts. The shortfalls are acute in mid-western region, far-western region, and Taplejung, Panchthar and Sankhuwasabha districts in the East.
The Public Health Directorate claims to have set aside enough budget (Rs 210 million for this fiscal year) to ensure continuous supply of essential medicines, and attributes the scarcity to failure of local leadership. But a major reason behind the shortage is that, with most of the drugs available for free, an unprecedented number of people are visiting healthcare centres, putting extra pressure on the centres. But at the heart of the problem is the lack of coordination between local health bodies and local-level bureaucracy. Dearth of communication means that it takes an inordinate amount of time for the news
of shortage to travel to the higher authorities at the centre and that much longer to meet the deficit. Better communication between local health authorities and bureaucracy, a clear channel for flow of information from regional health bodies to the centre and proper accountability will help solve much of the problem.