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Meghalaya’s chief minister Mukul Sangma is a physician himself. But, it seems, he failed to ensure good health of the health department. From medicines worth crores getting ‘expired’ to non-functional equipment for cancer treatment, the authorities have showed as to what extent the public can be taken for granted. It was not that they have been ignorant about the rot inside the department. But, their let-it-be attitude cost the public dearly. In the blame game, which happens after every scam is unearthed, the damage caused to public and loss of taxpayers’ money is often ignored.

In a major instance of apathy, the Shillong civil hospital failed to make any move to rectify the ‘snag’ in its radiotherapy equipment in past two months. An Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) delegation during its visit to the hospital in December pointed out non-compliance of a ‘safety code’ in radiotherapy treatment. The ultimate outcome of this whole episode is sufferings of cancer patients. The state has high prevalence of cancer with hundreds of patients going outside every year for treatment.

In the second instance, medicines worth Rs 4 crore purchased under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) got ‘expired’. The entire stock will now have to be disposed of. After the major faux pas, the health minister AL Hek is now saying that from now onwards medicine purchase will be ‘demand-driven’. Does he mean to say that all along medicines were purchased irrespective of their requirement? Does it also mean that only cheap and worthless medicines, which come with more kickbacks for the who’s who, were only purchased? The department first shows utter apathy in making use of the medicines and then the minister makes an irresponsible remark. He did not make it clear if any action will be taken against the officers responsible. He failed to deliver the proper role of a public representative. A state can always run be run by bureaucrats. What is the worth of public representative if not in such cases? A suspension of officials concerned would have been befitting, pending the inquiry.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on February 14, 2015)

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