Govt yet to issue orders to restart mobile clinics closed in the wake of pandemic

The Kerala Social Security Mission project Vayomithram, which benefited people above 65, has come to a standstill following a shortage of medicines and no government orders to restart the mobile clinics.

The project was implemented to provide health care and support to elderly people residing within the limits of corporations, municipalities, and a few block panchayats in the State. Free medicines, mobile clinics, palliative care, counselling, and help desk service were provided under the project.

The initiative had received huge support and more than 2 lakh registered people benefited from the project.

However, after the outbreak of COVID-19, the clinics were stopped. But despite this, it was ensured that medicines were supplied to the elderly, said a district coordinator, on conditions of anonymity.

She said across the State, with the support of volunteers, medicines were supplied to the patients even during the pandemic.

Most of the medicines were related to lifestyle diseases, helping ailing people, particularly during the pandemic period. But now, there had been a shortage of medicines for the past three months, she said. Besides, they were yet to receive a government order to restart the clinics.

The shortage of funds was cited as the reason for the delay in the supply of medicines, said Ramesh (name changed), another project coordinator.

He said there were dues of ₹30 crore, which the Social Security Mission had to pay the Kerala Medical Service Corporation (KMSCL). The delay in releasing the funds had led to a shortage of medicines, he claimed.

There are two medical teams in corporation limits and one for each municipality. A team comprising a doctor, nurse and junior public health nurse conducts camps to examine the people and prescribe medicines, which are given out through volunteers.

“Many of the medicines are related to lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. They were given free of cost. But due to the shortage, people are being told to purchase them from outside,” said Raneesh, who volunteers to distribute medicines to people in Iritty municipality.

He said there was a lot of inquiry from people for medicines.

Executive director M. Anjana of the Social Security Mission was unavailable for comments.

However, Assistant Director P. Sherif said that each year, the number of beneficiaries had seen an increase and the plan fund of ₹24 crore was insufficient to meet the growing demand.

This issue was under the serious consideration of the government and following its intervention, ₹12 crore had been issued to the KMSCL to ensure that the medicine supply continued. More steps were being taken to address the financial crunch.

He said that due to the pandemic situation, camps could not be conducted. As a solution, the contact number of doctors had been provided to the patients, helping them to contact the doctors directly, he said.