Kerala Human Rights Commission directs departmental inquiry against Medical Services Corporation officials

Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau report points to lapses in withholding supply of certain batches of medicines

The State Human Rights Commission in Kerala (SHRC) has directed Kerala Medical Services Corporation (KMSC) to launch a departmental inquiry against officials whose names appear in a report of the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) in connection with lapses in withholding supply of certain batches of medicines.

Acting on a petition, the commission, comprising member K. Byjunath, said recently that disciplinary action should be taken against the KMSC employees if they were found guilty of the charges.

On a plea by the petitioner, the SHRC had in 2019 directed the Health Secretary to take steps for conducting a Vigilance probe and prosecution of KMSC officials responsible for not taking timely action in withholding supply of certain batches of medicines declared ‘Not of standard quality’ despite a Department of Drugs Control report. The department had conducted quality tests on medicines supplied to medical colleges and other government hospitals during 2013-14.

Merit in claim

The commission had earlier ordered an inquiry by the investigating officer under it. The inquiry had revealed that the petitioner’s claims had merit.

The Director of the VACB, Thiruvananthapuram, through his enquiry official – the South Zone police inspector – had submitted a preliminary probe report to the commission last month, following which the commission was convinced of the lapses on the part of certain officials in discharging their duties.

It also found lack of coordination and professionalism on the part of the KMSC, Government Drug Testing Laboratory, Directorate of Medical Education, the Directorate of Health Services and allied institutions involved in the supply and distribution of medicines throughout the State.

It directed the Health Secretary to devise a mechanism for coordination and ensure instant communication among the stakeholders involved in the distribution of medicines. Conventional communication modes should be replaced by emails and other instant messaging options so that information on withheld medicines could be conveyed to all hospitals quickly, it said.

Modernising facilities

The panel directed the Health Secretary and the Director of Health Services to take steps to modernise facilities at the KMSC, such as increasing the capacity of warehouses and enhancing in-house testing facilities, for expediting quality checks on medicines.

It also called for a monitoring mechanism to review the supply and distribution of medicines in a scientific manner, including immediate withdrawal and destruction of medicines categorised as ‘Not of standard quality.’

The Health Secretary and the KMSC managing director should explore the possibilities of purchasing medicines for the following year well in advance so that their quality can be checked by laboratories before distribution to hospitals. This would do away with the practice of withdrawing medicines after their distribution and use, and avert the possibility of health hazards, the commission directed, seeking action-taken reports within three months.

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