A sprightly old man with a bagful of medicines heads for Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital to donate unused medicines collected from different localities for distribution among poor patients. He is dressed in a red kurta, which has his mobile number and the words ‘medicine bank’ printed on it. He goes from door to door asking for unused medicines so that they can be supplied to those in need.
Omkar Nath Sharma, 74, is a walking medicine bank. He was crippled after he met with an accident in childhood. Despite his disability, his enthusiasm is undiminished and he walks about five kilometres every day to collect the drugs. Children call him medicine baba. “The officials living here are CGHS beneficiaries. They get medicines for free and the drugs which are left unused are usually discarded. I collect these and donate them to the needy through NGOs and hospitals,” said Sharma, who has earlier worked as a medical attendant with a private hospital. After he finishes collecting medicines, he spreads a sheet on the roadside and settles down to arrange them. He systematically prepares a list of all the medicines and asks for a receipt while donating these to a hospital or an NGO.
Sharma claims to be collecting medicines worth lakhs every day. “In my 27-year-long career as a medical attendant, I have seen many patients who cannot even afford a painkiller or antibiotics. People usually throw the unused medicines after the patient recovers. There is no system to prevent this wastage and redistribute these medicines. I’m trying to do my bit,” said Sharma.
While some people do not cooperate, there are many others who appreciate his efforts and make significant contributions. “Some people are friendly and offer me tea and water. I never ask for anything except for medicines,” says Sharma.
Health experts say that with prices of medicines shooting up, putting in place a system where unused medicines can be collected for the benefit of others is important. “Distribution of medicines is of vital importance and more people should participate in such efforts,” said Dr Bir Singh, professor of community medicine department at AIIMS.
Omkar Nath Sharma can be contacted at 9250243298. “Though many government hospitals have an emergency section, no medicine shops are open after 10pm. The caretakers of patients have a tough time because of unavailability of medicines and I urge the government to address this issue and promote the creation of medicine banks all over the country,” Sharma added.