The state government is gearing up to take on hospital unions as it presses ahead with its plans to outsource its canteen and housekeeping services to large firms. Hospital unions have opposed the move.
In May last year, the state had announced that it was considering outsourcing the food, housekeeping and security functions in government-run hospitals to bring about quality improvement.
Government-run hospitals are notorious for serving poor quality food and maintaining substandard hygiene, and the government was keen for a makeover. But since then, the state has been unable to make much progress.
“Vested interests are making sure that this does not happen as there is a lot of corruption in these departments and it is very difficult to keep tabs,” said a top-level source. For instance, patients often complain that they don’t get gowns or fresh bed sheets when admitted to hospitals and “no one is held accountable”. Similarly, when a hospital says it needs 100 bottles of phenyl, there is no mechanism to keep tabs on whether 100 bottles of phenyl are actually being purchased or used. “We know people are making money here by cheating, and the patients suffer,” the source said.
The state believes getting private firms involved will help change the state of affairs. But to ensure factors such as quality and accountability, the state government is keen that only large and credible firms be given the contracts for food and housekeeping.
Hence, the state government plans to bunch up hospitals as per city or locality and have one firm handle these functions for all of them. “This will allow only big and serious players to apply since the very size of such contracts, especially in the larger cities of the state, will mean few small firms will be able to meet the requirements,” the source added.
For now, the state is preparing for what it expects to be a battle with those against the move.