Country on brink of X-ray, CT, MRI films' shortage: Fujifilm Pakistan CEO
- Industry unable to import essential supplies due to delays in issuance of letters of credit
KARACHI: Fujifilm Pakistan CEO Syed Haider Ali Naqvi said on Thursday that the segment, where his company specialises, has been unable to open Letters of Credit (LCs) as per its usual banking cycle and this development might trigger a severe shortage of X-ray, CT and MRI films for the first time in the country's history.
According to company officials who held a press briefing in Karachi, the standard practice is putting an import order every 15 days because the products have expiry dates in addition to storage protocols such as controlled temperature facility.
“The hospitals and diagnostic laboratories are on the brink of running out of stocks,” Naqvi said while speaking to Business Recorder after the press briefing.
“If LCs are not opened immediately, we will see a shortage of these critical films in many public and private hospitals and laboratories in the country within a month.”
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The development comes as dozens of companies operating in different sectors have announced either a shutdown or reduction in operations in Pakistan owing to reduced demand, inventory shortage, energy crunch and supply chain disruptions.
The current economic situation in Pakistan, marred by rapidly-depleting foreign exchange reserves, has also forced commercial banks to be selective in opening LCs even for sectors such as healthcare.
Officials from the segment say they foresee an imminent humanitarian and healthcare crisis in Pakistan unless prompt actions are taken by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Ministry of Finance and other institutions to avert a disaster.
“Irregular supply will result in shortages and potential price gouging which will have a direct impact on the citizens of Pakistan,” Naqvi said.
Fujifilm Pakistan MD Syed Jameel Hussain said X-rays are one of the first lines of defence used in the diagnosis of various life threatening diseases including tuberculosis, cancer, Covid-19, bone fractures, and pneumonia. In addition, CT Scans and MRIs are also printed on X-ray films.
In Pakistan, Fujifilm is a major supplier of medical X-ray films, with nearly 50% market share, and various diagnostic medical equipment such as X-ray printers, X-ray machines, imaging plates, mammography and ultrasound machines. Back in the day, Fujifilm supplied imaging products for photography, cinema and print media.
Naqvi said 60% of X-ray films are used for chest X-rays and reduction in their availability may even delay the diagnosis of Covid-19 patients amid other severe consequences.
The import of medical X-ray films costs $20 million annually or $1.6 million a month. The officials say cost of imports is far less than the damage its shortage could do to the well-being of citizens.
Naqvi feared that if the industry failed to open LCs, then medical and healthcare sector may arrange the X-ray films from smuggled material, which would be costly and quality of films could be compromised “because smugglers will not follow proper supply chain protocols”.
He said that at present, 90% to 95% X-ray films are imported through legal channels.
Sheikh Danish Javed, Executive Director Mediquips, the official distributor of Konica films, said that if LCs were not opened, it will disrupt the supply chain of X-ray films.
He said in post-Covid scenario, the global X-ray film industry was completely booked with orders and customers had to book a supply slot.
“If we failed to order in that particular slot, then we have to wait for other slots,” he said. “If we fail to book an order in January, we won’t be able to get our consignment in March.”
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