AP’s financial crisis may hit Covid vaccination

Medical officers of PHCs have to pay from their pockets to procure vaccine doses from district vaccine stores by arranging private transport

VIJAYAWADA: Financial crisis facing Andhra Pradesh government appear to be impacting ongoing Covid-19 vaccination, as certain medical officers belonging to primary health centres (PHCs) across the state are unwilling to lift vaccine doses from District Vaccine Stores and take them to PHCs by paying transport charges from their own pockets.

State government receives Covid-19 vaccine stocks at the State Vaccine Store. From there, they are transported to Regional Vaccine Stores located in Visakhapatnam, Kadapa, Guntur and Kurnool for stocking at each District Vaccine Store. District medical and health officers (DMHOs) and district immunisation officers (DIOs) supervise supply of vaccine doses to PHCs based on availability of vaccine stocks and requirements at PHCs.

However, since past few months, medical officers of PHCs have been procuring vaccine doses from their district vaccine stores by arranging private transport and paying charges on their own. They are then submitting bills pertaining to transportation charges to officials concerned for refund. This time around, refunds have remained unpaid. Many medical officers are now unwilling to lift vaccine doses as also regular drugs administered to patients visiting primary health centres at their personal cost.

A PHC medical officer from East Godavari said, “District health authorities must arrange for supply of Covid vaccine doses and other drugs to PHCs, so that we can administer the jab and provide treatment to patients. If they do not send these medical supplies on time, we used to arrange for transport and claim refund. It costs ₹ 1,500–2,000 per trip. I am now unable to pay from my wages. Transport costs are much higher when we get oxygen concentrators to PHCs. We are unable to bear the financial burden anymore,” he stated.

Though DMHOs and DIOs are supposed to arrange for transport, they have shifted the responsibility on to PHC medical officers. Another PHC medical officer from Krishna district said, “When we report to district health authorities about falling medical stocks, they ask us to arrange for the transport from our pockets. How long can we do that,” he asked.

PHC medical officers say at a time when there is high risk of Coronavirus with the fast-spreading Omicron variant and World Health Organisation has called for complete vaccination of all targeted people in an expeditious manner, vaccination programme will suffer if the state government fails to address the transport issue on priority basis.

“If epidemic drugs are not supplied in a timely manner, patients visiting PHCs for treatment will suffer,” a medical officer warned.

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