CM goes snooping on doctors, chemists

CM Visits Stores Near SSKM, Seizes Prescriptions

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee shook up the SSKM Hospital neighbourhood on Monday evening with a surprise "investigation" that left quite a few medicine shops reeling in shock and several doctors palpitating with anxiety.

The CM had gone down to inquire into complaints that some doctors were defying her order to prescribe generic medicines and that pharmacies outside SSKM were harassing patients because of the fair price shop she had inaugurated on January 22. As if the CM's presence was not bewildering enough, she took along city police commissioner Surajit Kar Purakayastha, state chief secretary Sanjay Mitra, health secretary Satish Chandra Tewary, director-medical education Dr S Bandopaandhya and director-health services Dr B R Satpatty. 

With the high-power entourage in tow, Mamata warned medicine shops not to bother patients and seized several prescriptions where doctors had recommended medicines by brand names rather than their composition as dictated by her. The sudden visit was preceded by a long, closed-door meeting on fair price shops at Writers' Buildings. 

Mamata stepped into the fair price shop at SSKM around 6.45pm. The first thing she did was to collect copies of prescriptions that did not have generic drugs. She asked the staff if they faced any problems. "Only 30% of the doctors are using generic names in the prescription. Though we have a software to decode the generic name of branded drugs, most often we cannot convince the patient's relatives as they want to stick to the drug prescribed by the doctor," said an employee. 

The health secretary said that action will be taken against these doctors. "The CM has personally collected the prescriptions and will investigate the matter," said Tewary. 

Despite this problem, the staff said that they were getting good response from patients. Mamata stayed here for about 10 minutes and marched outside, pausing a few seconds to advise patient's kin who were preparing to stay overnight under the shop's roof to find a proper place. 

The other complaint Mamata had got was that medicine shops outside SSKM were refusing patients, who came to buy medicines that are unavailable at the fair price shop. As traffic on Harish Mukherjee Road slowed to a crawl, the CM stepped into five medicine shops and warned the chemists not to mislead patients or deny them purchase. 

"There have been instances when the fair price shop ran out of a few items due to heavy demand. The other day it was saline bottles. Patients complained that some chemists outside refused to sell it to them," said Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (IPGMER) director Dr Pradip Kumar Mitra. 

Mamata's brisk operation that lasted about 20 minutes did leave an impact on chemist shops. "Our sales have come down after the fair price shop opened, but only marginally. The CM appealed not to deny a patient who wants to buy medicines not available in the fair price shop. We are only happy to abide by that," said an employee of Roy and Son, soon after the CM left. 

The fair price shop, run by M/S Life Drug House Ltd, gives the highest discount — 67.25% — among all such outlets at medical colleges. Tewary said that it sold drugs worth Rs 2 lakh on on Thursday, so the patients got a discount of Rs 4 lakh.

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