Non-uniform prices in fair-price med shops

The much-hyped Mamata Banerjee government's effort to set up a fair-price medicine shops in six state-run hospitals has failed to evoke good response from people as the price of medicines vary from one fair-price outlet to another. Moreover, most of the essential medicines like Pentaprazole, Coamoxycilin (an antibiotic to reduce pain) , Ferrous Citrate (used during labour pain) remain out of stock at these outlets.

On December 11, the state government inaugurated six such outlets at Bangur, Barasat, Jalpaiguri, North Bengal Medical College, Midnapore Medical College and Calcutta Medical College after inviting tenders from private firms to set up fair-price shops in 34 state-run hospitals. It was earlier decided to sell 142 essential medicines at 50 per cent discount but after the bid, the percentage of discount was 48-66 per cent.

Sudip Roy, a relative of a patient at MR Bangur Hospital, said doctors told them to buy meropenam injection for his wife suffering from acute liver pain. She was referred from Jalpaiguri District Hospital where the price of the same medicine was Rs 700 at a discount of 66 per cent. "At Bangur hospital, we are getting a discount of 52 per cent," said Roy.

A fair-price shopkeeper said that as various private parties quoted lowest price depending on the area, the discount offered to patients vary considerably leading to confusion. "As a result many people are buying medicines from private stores," he said.

Biswaranjan Sathpati, director of health services, said patients are facing difficulties because the project is in an initial stage. "But patients have benefited by cheap medicines," Sathpati said.

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