Bhubaneswar: Principal Secretary, Industries, and Emergency Procurement in-charge, Hemant Sharma on Tuesday said that the Chief Minister has given a carte blanche to the Health Department to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Can you give a single example in which an official of the Centre or any state government till date has given a blank cheque to the supplier for procurement of essential medicine or medical equipment? This is the challenge that we have managed to overcome,” Sharma said in reply to a question by the government’s Chief Spokesperson on COVID-19, Subroto Bagchi.
Here are some questions-answers between the two during a press briefing here.
Subroto Bagchi (SB): How did you solve the problem in the installation of a Cobas machine (which measures different chemicals and other characteristics in a number of biological samples quickly with minimal human assistance) when there were no people to assist you?
Hemant Sharma (HS): This was a learning example for us. Everything can be managed in a coordinated manner if a target is given by the top leadership. The Chief Minister gave us a target that we have to double the number of the tests immediately. We found that the Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC) has a Cobas-6800 machine for research work and that it can be used for COVID-19 test. The test kits of this machine are manufactured by the world famous Roche AG, a Swiss multinational healthcare company. We got about 50,000 kits after the Chief Minister had a talk with the Prime Minister. To install the machine, we took permission from the Chief Minister. Later, the state government sent its own chartered flight and brought 22 service engineers of the company which installed the machine in three days. We are now able to conduct 2500 tests every day of which 800 are done in the Cobas machine. The Chief Minister asked me why one Cobas machine? We need even more. Now, we are getting three machines very soon. These will be permanently installed in the medical colleges and hospital in Koraput, Balangir and Balasore in two months.
SB: The Chief Minister had directed a budget allocation of Rs 630 crore exclusively for COVID-19. Do you think the state will have any financial problem to deal with the situation in the coming days?
HS: Our budget is not Rs 630 crore. Rather it is unlimited. The Chief Minister has told the Health Department team that for the larger interest of the people of the state, you have a blank cheque. All that we have to do is to ensure the quality, transparency and integrity in our procurement.
SB: What specific instructions has the Chief Minister given to you and your team?
HS: The Chief Minister has told us to be good human beings first. We should have empathy for the poorest of the poor in Odisha. Acting on the directive of the Chief Minister, whatever decision we are taking through the Emergency Procurement Committee is immediately approved by the empowered group of ministers every Thursday and subsequently by the State Cabinet.
SB: As we are currently passing through a critical phase, what will be the challenge for you as a leader?
HS: I feel that God has given me the opportunity to shoulder this responsibility. When I see that our health workers, doctors, nurses, ASHA workers and para-medical staff, who are the real warriors, are taking the swab and wearing the personal protective equipment (PPE) suits, I feel that I have contributed something.