Medicines You Get Free
The government has already declared that 70 different medicines used to cure common ailments will be freely available to the people at different health institutions run by the state. Whether the needy citizens are benefitting from this landmark decision is a big question. In a country known for its urban poor population, there may be many who need free medicines provided by the government even in the urban areas, including the capital. The need of such a facility in the rural areas is much greater. But the target beneficiaries may largely be in the dark about this health benefit provided by the state. They may have visited a private drug store without claiming free medicines they are entitled to after seeing a doctor in a government hospital, or health centre or health post because of ignorance about the concerned medicines. This may have not only deprived many service seekers but also unduly benefitted the hospital staff who are often blamed for taking the free medicines to their private stores for sale. What usually happens is that the unaware patients, not knowing what medicines are available free of cost, end up buying the stuff at the private pharmacies. In order to end this situation of anomaly arising out of ignorance and poor awareness, the Ministry of Health has directed the government health institutions at all levels to publicly display the names of free medicines that the citizens are entitled to get. Though there is the usual problem of hospital staff turning down the demand of patients, saying that the shelves are already empty, the new decision if properly implemented, will help raise awareness among the service seekers.
The instruction to display the list of free medicines in the hospitals, health centres and health posts is an appreciable decision of the government, but it is also important to make sure that the implementation is not limited to mere formality. The idea is to let the concerned patients know what drugs are available free so that he or she does not have to visit private drug stores to make purchases. Displaying the names of medicines in English on a flex board completes the formality, but the people with poor level of education may not be able to make anything out of this. The concerned doctors or other health workers attending the patients should tell their patients in plain terms what they are entitled to. The health institutions should be strictly required to keep a register of the medicines distributed. This will put a check on the possibility of funneling free medicines to private stores for profit. Medical terms are highly specialized, and it is hard even for an educated person to keep abreast with medicines and their usage unless things are simplified by the concerned health personnel. The list should not only be bilingual in English and Nepali but also further explain what ailments they are meant for. It is commendable that the government has directed the health institutions to list the medicines both in English and Nepali, yet the real objective will not be met unless the hospital staff take time to explain things in layman’s terms. The government has also decided to run its own pharmacies in government hospitals. This will be a good place to avail free medicines to the needy ones.
Narayan Kaji Shrestha is the secretariat member and spokesperson of the ruling Nepal Communist Party. Although he had staked his claim to the post of...