Procurement of Critical Care Ambulances

Availability of medical facilities to the citizens should not only be their top expectations from the Government at any point of time but one of the main acid tests of a performing Government could be seen from the levels of its commitment towards providing medical and health care to people without any hassles. We have been maintaining on comparative analysis that healthcare in Jammu and Kashmir was somewhat better than many states but overall in most critical and sensitive areas, it was in morass and afflicted with administrative, organisational, technical and even fraudulent hiccups. Just taking the case of procurement of Critical Care Ambulances (CCAs), the experience is nightmarish as J&K Medical Supplies Corporation Limited (JKMSCL) seems to be undone fighting technical and unwarranted disruptions and delays. Hardly do we need to insist on the utility and the urgent need of having reasonably adequate number of critical care ambulances for patients with emergency cases and equally, how the entire “project work” in this respect for procuring should be handled.
Agreed, that the Jammu and Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation Limited was assigned the task of procuring as many as seven Ambulances of the specific type as notified by the Central Government, but the fact is whether the state administration was having the proper logistics and the medical facility available on such vehicles round the clock and other infrastructural support otherwise readily available has neither been taken into consideration nor the same has been assessed. Regardless of the fact as to how tenders were floated and bids accepted or rejected in respect of procuring such ambulances, the fact remains that the whole exercise has turned out to be nothing less than a mere chaos, if not a ruse.
The utility and the actual purpose of procuring these vehicles does not end at possessing them alone but whether arrangements to equip them suitably were made, whether our hospitals have as much medical staff to spare them and that too from amongst the specialists or properly trained ones to attend to the critical cases and emergencies at the places of the patients where they are in dire need of, which ordinary ambulances cannot provide. That being the one side of the issue and the other one is the reported move of going to the extent of compromising with the safety of the patients by allotting the contract to a company which suffered from specification deficit although the bid was the lowest . The fact of the matter is that what should have been the guiding principle, that of according priority to particular specifications, attention has instead been given to the bid amount. Were these vehicles destined to be dumped in the hospital premises or put to uses other than the pointed and specific ones?
We have also learnt that the company had to supply the prototype vehicle within 45 days of placement of order and rest of the vehicles within two months but even after seven months from the prototype vehicle received in December last year, the company has not been in a position to supply the rest of the vehicles so far hence breaking the terms of the contract. Who evaluated and scanned the bids and approved the one in respect of the Company under reference must feel accountable rather made so. Jammu and Kashmir having peculiar geographical position and mostly hilly , the technical committee of the Jammu and Kashmir Medical Supplies Corporation Limited failed in its duty and conveniently ignored the peculiar requirements commensurate to the geographical requirements and speculations are thus rife even within the Corporation as to the “reasons” for selecting a company which did not fit in the basic parameters.
Not only this, products including the most critical – even the ventilator quoted by the company are reported to be sub-standard and non compliant ones and thus violating the guidelines of the Central Government. So, not only the delay in supplying the critical care ambulances but even in the products to be fitted in them are of non- specific and low standard quality defeating the very purpose of such ambulances. The administration at the top level must find out the causes of the entire mess and initiate steps to procure those ambulances which are as per the set specification to avoid the ambulances not serving the specific purposes for which they are to be purchased.