THE supply of substandard medical equipment and spurious medicines to hospitals run by the city district government, Lahore, is endangering the life of patients. This was revealed by a report in this newspaper. This has come despite the provincial government providing money for free medicines. The use of substandard equipment has been known to create situations during operations when the patients attendants are asked to provide that equipment, which they do by using a private-sector pharmacy. This has not just exposed the administrations of the hospitals, but also their supervising agencies, whose inaction betrays their complicity. It also exposes the entire public health apparatus to charges of being unable to meet the health needs of the public, not because of lack of funding, but because of corruption and an uncaring attitude that does not behoove health professionals, which has unfortunately come to characterise the public sector. The defensive attitude of the Health Department will not help. There must be a thorough probe, and it must be determined whether a sound system is being poorly implemented, or whether the system itself is at fault. If the former, it must be ensured that proper implementation is carried out, so that there is no further waste of taxpayers money; and if the latter, there must be a new system designed which should guarantee that the system places the wellbeing of patients as its first priority. The purpose of government is to ensure that such systems are in place, not just to approve funds. Indeed, funds are only meant to provide the wherewithal so that the wellbeing of ill persons can be put first, not so that they are embezzled by government servants; and the government is supposed to make sure that those funds are judiciously spent, not wasted. The present case will be a test for the government, which can either choose to be an agent for change or be part of the corrupt status quo.