Sunday, April 21, 2024
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The purchase of inferior PPE is murky

The world is overpowered by COVID-19 and the richest and the most powerful nations are helplessly struggling against the pandemic during the last 3 months. Despite using the best protective medical suits being used by the Doctors and nurses, hundreds of them had to sacrifice their lives as those equipments are not prophylactic enough. Many countries purchased such medical equipments from China, and yet few countries like Spain, Ukraine, etc. returned the consignments branding those to be substandard as learnt from the news. India has also found the testing kit of Chinese made to be less effective. To the best possible extent, the security and safety of the medical staff has to be ensured by providing what equipments and kits are internationally specified medically.
Contrary to the above backdrop, the local media is donned during the last few weeks by the controversy over the quality of PPEs purchased by the Health and Family Welfare Department (HFWD) of Nagaland and which are issued to District Hospitals. A week ago, the HFWD issued the directive restricting its employees from going to social media or to press as for the pandemic and its related matters are concerned except through the nodal mouth piece.
Nevertheless, out of anonymity, the field Doctors and Nurses in particular are divulging their lack of faith in the PPEs so far made available to them already by raising these few questions according to local media dated 20.4.2020: a) How ‘large quantity’ of PPE is supplied to District Hospitals disproportionately against very limited staff? b) How the sub-standard quality of PPEs meant for mock-drill and practice only are issued to the field officers and staff? One officer complained that ‘the PPE received were very poor quality especially the mask which was worse than a market carry bag’. Reacting to complaints, the Govt. of Nagaland has decided to replace those defective and unusable equipments on the condition that the concerned field officers write to the controlling authorities for replacement with new equipments as per the decision taken on the last Sunday, the 19th April, 2020. This decision of the State Govt. to allow the District hospitals to get the first batch of PPEs replaced with the new PPEs implies that the PPEs purchased earlier were defective and thus the complaints so raised were justified. The old adage goes that history repeats itself. Similarly, the HFWD is repeating its history.
Now, the rat is out of its burrow. The local media dated 22.4.2020 has disclosed that those defective and unusable PPEs were purchased by HFWD under the circumstance of ‘panic’ purchase as admitted by no other than the Medical Minister himself. The world came to know about the pandemic that occurred in Wuhan, China in January, 2020 and we are in the fourth month since. The Govt. of Nagaland had sufficient time to get itself prepared especially for procurement of such equipment as certified by competent authority. Am I wrong to say that the greed of HFWD had surpassed the transparency and benevolence of the decision makers whereby the avoidable wastage of so much money on the double procurements of the two categories of PPEs-the first is outdated and the latter is useable. No matter what may be or will be the explanations of the HFWD, the purchase of the inferior quality PPEs was not accidental but definitely intentional.
The procurement of the sub-standard quality PPE and providing it to physicians across the State of Nagaland is not as simple as those authorities who ordered for the purchase of useless equipments thought it to be. It tantamount to deploying soldiers to the war front with guns without ammunitions. No sensible and responsible authority would have resorted to such murky dealings by which the lives of his citizens are placed in jeopardy. Whoever is/are responsible for providing the defective PPEs has/have definitely undervalued humanity. Sooner or later, the concerned authority has to answer to the people of the State as to why the HFWD has undermined both the lives of the medical staff and of the disease. Are the frontline medical officers and nurses in Nagaland considered to be guinea pig? Had it not been the love and compassion of the Living God alone for the people of Nagaland, how many frontline medical officers and staff in Nagaland would have been forced to face perilous risk by the HFWD? The fact is that had there been COVID-19 patients in Nagaland beside one, the medical teams had to nurture those patients wearing the defective PPEs under compulsions endangering their lives.
In the light of above, it does not suffice for the HFWD to give a single sentence justification to the people of the State as to why such inferior PPEs were purchased at the expense of the lives of the people. Rather, it is imperative that the procurement of the sub-standard consignments of PPE is inquired into by the constituted competent authority so as to find out: a) What is the quantum of PPE of that inferior quality in question was procured? b) What is the total investment of money on the same? c) When the purchase orders were placed and when the consignment was delivered to Nagaland? d) Who was/were the nodal authority/authorities by whose approval such equipments were procured?
It is unimaginable that the concerned authorities in Nagaland are indulging in such business of mismanagement while 210 or more countries are fighting to save their citizens from this pandemic. May the sensible citizens of Nagaland realize what a pathetic situation we have built for ourselves?
Z. Lohe