Milk off patient diet at Mumbai civic hospitals as Aarey Dairy snaps supply

CIVIC HOSPITALS across Mumbai have been forced to take milk off the patient diet since government-run Aarey Dairy discontinued supply to them earlier this month, citing short supply.

Mumbai’s four major hospitals – KEM, Sion, Cooper, and Nair – 16 peripheral hospitals, and 30 maternity homes cumulatively consume 4,000 litres of milk daily. The four major hospitals alone require 700 litres of milk daily. Aarey Dairy supplied this milk at a subsidised cost of Rs 39 per litre.

“Due to poor availability of milk, we had to stop the supply,” confirmed HP Tummod, commissioner Dairy Development.

The dairy gets milk from the rural pockets of the state which is then processed and distributed. Aarey said this supply chain has been disrupted as the sellers are getting a better price for their produce from private vendors. “Private cooperative dairies are paying Rs 39-40 per litre to the owners of livestock while the government only gives Rs 27 per litre. So suppliers prefer private companies over the government, causing this shortfall, and forcing us to discontinue supplies to hospitals,” Aarey Dairy CEO Ravindra Pawar said.

“Aarey Dairy informed us through a notice that they won’t be able to continue supplying milk [to us]. The reason wasn’t stated clearly,” said Dr Mangala Gomare, executive health officer, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

However, this has left hospitals in the lurch, with nearly 80,000 patients deprived of milk. With no alternative source of milk, the hospitals are struggling. Even as they have turned to philanthropists for donation, they are also prioritising paediatric patients and pregnant women over others while including milk in patients’ meals.

Sion Hospital dean Dr Mohan Joshi said milk is an important source of vitamins and minerals. “Milk is an essential part of the balanced diet which is provided to patients, including paediatric patients. In fact, we use the milk to produce curds. If the supply is disrupted, patients will be deprived of a healthy protein diet so we had to opt for donation,” he said. On a daily basis, the hospital requires around 100 litres of milk for its 1,800-odd patients.

At Cooper Hospital, the authority is procuring it through a kitchen contractor. “We need around 40 litres of milk daily. But one fine day, without prior notice, Aarey Dairy discontinued the service,” said Dr Shailesh Mohite, dean of the hospital.

A doctor from the Sewri TB hospital, where milk is part of the protein diet for patients, told The Indian Express that they had to call up enlisted philanthropists, requesting them to donate the milk. “We require 150 litres of milk daily—the highest per day requirement among civic hospitals. It is really becoming a challenge to arrange for milk for patients,” said the doctor.

In order to tide over the crisis, the BMC is now looking to sign an agreement with another government-run dairy, Mahanand Dairy. “We have already held a meeting with the representatives of Mahanand Dairy. Once we get the approval from the administration, we will issue the circular. The supply will be restored soon,” said Dr Gomare. While the BMC has proposed to procure this milk at Rs 51 per litre – which is substantially higher than the Rs 39 per litre price it paid to Aarey – the proposal is yet to receive clearance, which means, said doctors, patients will have to wait some more before the supply is restored.

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