On a day when the state BJP procured 5,000 Remdesivir — an approved drug for the treatment of Covid-19 — injections and started distribution it in Surat city, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani clarified the stocks of the medicine procured by the party’s state unit president C R Paatil for Surat “is separate and is not a part of government stocks”.
On Saturday, after flagging off 20 Dhanvantri Arogya Raths from the Circuit House in Ahmedabad, Rupani said, “Concerned about Surat, C R Paatil has arranged for 5,000 Remdesivir injections. How CR (Paatil) made those arrangements, it is better to ask him for a proper answer. The government has made separate arrangements. The distribution organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party is also different. This has no connection with the stocks we have sent (for Surat)… Not a single injection has been given from government stocks.”
Dhanvantri Arogya Raths provide healthcare services at construction sites and are a part of the similar raths rolled out by The Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board.
During a visit to Surat’s New Civil hospital on Friday, Paatil had announced that the BJP would give 5,000 vials of Remdesivir injections free-of-cost to needy patients from the Surat BJP office on a daily basis from Saturday, triggering sharp reaction from the opposition parties which criticised the BJP for managing to procure Remdesivir injections that were in short supply.
On the sidelines of a party meeting at Morva Hadaf, which will see a by-election on April 17, Paatil Saturday told media persons, “Some of our friends from Surat city have bought these injections and we are distributing them through the BJP. We are committed to giving 5,000 injections. We are only supplementing the distribution. The state government has its own arrangement. The government is giving these injections free(-of-charge) at Civil and SMIMER hospitals in Surat, but there was a shortage in the private hospitals and for patients who are under homecare, and this is an attempt to supplement that demand.”
The CM said he had earlier sent 15,000 Remdesivir injections to Surat. “The district collector distributed this stock among private hospitals after reserving a part for the government hospitals. A register is also being maintained. On Friday, private hospitals ran out of their stocks and the Surat collector said he did not have any stocks left for private hospitals. So, I have sent 2,000 injections on Friday night to ensure that there is no gap in supply for private hospitals,” he said.
Rajya Sabha MP and Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, however, said the fact that a BJP leader was procuring medicines for one city in Gujarat reflected on the “weakness” of the chief minister.
“If the political parties are going to distribute injections, then will the Government of India or the state government provide stocks to other political parties for similar distribution. If any BJP leader is more influential than the chief minister, and can procure thousands of injections, then such procured medicines should be given to the government for distribution,” Gohil said.
Congress MLA from Gandhinagar, CJ Chavda, on Saturday wrote to the Commissioner of Food and Drugs Control Administration seeking that 2,500 vials of Remdesivir injections be made available to him for distribution in his Assembly constituency. “I wrote the letter because if state BJP president CR Paatil can collect Remdesivir injections for distribution in Surat, why can’t I do the same for my constituency. Every day, I get 20-22 calls from people asking if I can help them in getting this drug,” Chavda told The Sunday Express.
Chavda said Remdesivir cannot be sold even by medical shops as per the guidelines of Government of India. “It is interesting to know from where Paatil managed to collect these injections for distribution,” he added.
AAP leader Dharmesh Bhanderi, the leader of Opposition in Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC), also said, “We want to know if the state BJP president CR Paatil is above the state government machinery?”
Rupani, meanwhile, said the Gujarat government had increased the procurement of Remdesivir injections over the last week. “Today, we have also sent 10,000 injections to Kiran (Super Multispeciality) hospital in Surat. The government has made the arrangements… The government is giving these injections in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Rajkot, too. Over the last week, the government has arranged 88,000 Remdesivir injections. We have placed an order for another 3 lakh injections,” he added.
The CM also said that all Covid patients did not need to take Remdesivir. “There is no need to hoard Remdesivir. Experts say that if administered without need, the drug can cause damage.”
Pointing out that the Remdesivir is not been given directly to patients and is being supplied to hospitals, Rupani said Pankaj Patel-headed Zydus Cadila has been giving the drug through its outlet at its hospital in Ahmedabad. “Keeping in mind the feelings of the patients, Cadila had arranged to give this drug from its depot (at its hospital). Cadila made good arrangements and gave the drug to more than 10,000 people.”
Long queue of people waiting to buy Remdesivir were seen outside Zydus hospital in Ahmedabad since last couple of days. On Saturday, the hospital put up messages outside the hospital asking people not to queue up “as the stocks of the medicines have run out”.
During an interaction with media persons, Rupani said the state government had provided at least 25,000 vials of Remdesivir injections to Ahmedabad, apart from what was sold by Cadila.
Claiming that Gujarat had an upper hand when compared to other states in procurement of Remdesivir, the CM also said, “In a meeting held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi day before yesterday, Gujarat was (found to be) the only state which has made arrangements for thousands of units of Remdesivir. The other states (CMs) were shouting. We are fortunate, because the drug is being made in Gujarat and we are getting more stocks… In other states, the problem (shortage of medicine) is widespread.”
Maharashtra, Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have already reported a shortage of Remdesivir as Covid-19 cases surge.
Earlier in the day, Rupani also pointed out that Gujarat had only 1,800 cases when the infections peaked in the state in November 2020, while now, the number of new cases reported daily have crossed 4,500. He said the number of tests has gone up to 1.2 lakh from the earlier 60,000 conducted daily. “This time we have more asymptomatic and mild cases. So, we need to test more,” he added.
While assuring that the state was not heading towards a lockdown, he asked people to exercise restraint. “In last eight days, we have added 15,000 beds, 6,700 beds with oxygen and 965 ventilators. In Ahmedabad, we have added 5,000 beds, in Surat 3,500 beds, Vadodara has added 3,200 beds and Rajkot 2,535 beds,” he said.
Rupani also said that the Government of India was giving Gujarat all the stock of vaccine it needed and daily the state was vaccinating 3.5-4 lakh people. “In India, Gujarat is giving the maximum vaccines per million and recently we got 15 lakh vaccines from the Government of India. The second consignment for April 11-14 will come for the ‘Tika Utsav’,” he said.