Shortage of life-saving medical equipment looming

February 03, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Medical equipment companies have halted the supplies of life-saving medical devices to the public and private hospitals due to rupee devaluation and banks’ refusal to open LCs and bank contracts.

In their letters to Sindh and Punjab’s provincial health departments as well as public and private hospitals, several medical equipment suppliers have expressed their inability to provide stents, heart valves, x-ray films and radioactive materials for various diagnostics and medical interventions on the rates they had quoted in the tenders last year when dollar was being traded at Rs220. Officials of Sindh health department confirmed to The News on Thursday that medical devices and chemicals suppliers have invoked force majeure and stopped supplying essential medical equipment on the rates quoted in the tenders in the pretext of sharp decline in value of rupee. However, the suppliers agree to provide the medical equipment on the current market rate, an official of the Sindh health department said.

Though the public health facilities in Sindh have a stock of medical devices for few weeks, if the issues of LCs and rupee devaluation are not resolved soon, it could lead to serious implications for the patients, the official added.

The official maintained that the issue had been conveyed to the provincial government and expressed hope that it would be resolved with the intervention from monetary institutions.

One of the suppliers of the medical devices to the public institutions told The New some of the health departments, including Punjab health department, have started accepting the bidding by the medical devices suppliers in dollars. An importer told The News on the condition of anonymity that there were also reports of levying some additional taxes on imports through a mini budget. “In case any new taxes are imposed on imports, these will have to be paid additionally by the purchaser,” said the importer.

Commenting on the situation, Chairman of the Healthcare Devices Association of Pakistan (HDAP) Masood Ahmed said that the medical device companies and importers of medical supplies were justified in invoking force majeure as they were facing immense hardships in importing devices and chemicals due to dollar liquidity crunch as well as massive rupee devaluation in the country.

He added that under the current circumstances, medical devices and diagnostic kits suppliers should not be held responsible for delays in the supplies to the public and private hospitals.