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₹660 crore healthcare equipment procurement scam rocks Chhattisgarh

A recent audit has brought to light significant irregularities in the procurement practices of the Chhattisgarh State Medical Services Corporation Limited. The audit, covering the financial years 2022-23 and 2023-24, reveals that medical equipment and reagents worth ₹660 crores were acquired without any corresponding budget allocation. This revelation comes from a letter by the Accountant General to the Health Department, exclusively obtained by NDTV.

Key findings of the audit
The audit found that the corporation purchased medical equipment and reagents, distributing them to 776 primary health care (PHC) facilities. Shockingly, more than 350 of these PHCs lacked the necessary technical manpower and storage facilities to effectively utilize the equipment.

Furthermore, the audit highlighted that the Director of Health Services placed orders for these items without conducting essential baseline surveys or gap analyses to assess the specific needs of each facility. The distribution was uniform across all PHCs, ignoring variations in patient load and specific requirements. This indiscriminate procurement has resulted in high-value equipment sitting idle, with the risk of deterioration in the quality of reagents.

Ground report
At Bhatgaon Primary Health Center in Raipur, sophisticated equipment like sonography and x-ray machines were procured but remain non-operational due to the absence of specialist doctors. Dr. Harshita Tekam from the PHC noted that while basic services such as first aid and blood pressure monitoring are available, advanced machines cannot be used until specialists are appointed.
At Urla Primary Health Center, numerous chairs are unused due to space constraints. Naresh Sahu, President of the Paramedical Association, criticized the procurement strategy, emphasizing that patient admission should have been prioritized over purchasing expensive equipment. He cited the example of an ₹18 crore PET SCAN Gamma machine purchased in 2018 for the capital’s largest hospital, which remains non-functional.

Official response
The Principal Accountant General has called for a comprehensive audit involving the Chhattisgarh State Medical Services Corporation, the Director of Health Services, the National Health Mission, and field-level healthcare facilities. The audit aims to uncover the extent of mismanagement and ensure accountability.
This revelation raises serious questions about the efficiency and transparency of the procurement processes in the state’s healthcare system. As the investigation proceeds, the cooperation of all relevant facilities has been requested to facilitate a thorough audit. NDTV

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